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NC justices uphold order that led to rate rise

Published on NewsOK Modified: August 20, 2014 at 3:10 pm •  Published: August 20, 2014

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina electric power regulators were justified in their decision that previously allowed a Duke Energy subsidiary to raise the bills of average residential customers of the former Progress Energy by $88 per year, the state Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.

With no dissenting opinions, the justices agreed there was enough evidence to demonstrate the state Utilities Commission's conclusion last year that a specific profit margin for Duke Energy Progress was defensible.

Duke Energy Progress, with 1.3 million customers in much of eastern North Carolina and in Asheville, carried out the two-year rate increase in June 2013 and June 2014, with rates growing on average by 5.5 percent, and by 7.5 percent for homes. The average home saw an increase from $104.06 per month to $111.39, according to Duke Energy.

Attorney General Roy Cooper had appealed the commission's decision, saying the panel failed to consider in detail the economic impact on customers when authorizing a return on equity of 10.2 percent.

But the court said the commission's order pointed out the recently high unemployment rate and number of foreclosures, as well as nearly 60 witnesses who said the associated rate increase was not affordable to many customers. The commission also noted Duke Energy Progress would distribute $20 million to help poor customers and for job training, the opinion said.

"We hold that the commission made sufficient findings regarding the impact of changing economic conditions upon customers and that these findings are supported by competent, material, and substantial evidence in view of the entire record," Associate Justice Barbara Jackson wrote.

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