A massive proposed rate hike being pushed in the Palmetto State by Charlotte, North Carolina-based Duke Energy is being slammed as excessive, regressive and bad for the environment – and South Carolina citizens are being urged to challenge it as it receives consideration from the S.C. Public Service Commission (SCPSC).
According to retired Clemson University economist Holly Ulbrich, co-president of the League of Women Voters of South Carolina (LWVSC), the proposed rate hike “is burdensome on low-income households, discourages energy conservation, and would make electricity more expensive not only for households but also for small businesses and industry.”
Duke wants to raise rates on hundreds of thousands of South Carolinians beginning on June 1. Residents would see 12.1 percent rate hikes, while commercial and industrial consumers would see their bills go up by 8.3 percent.
The company is also proposing a whopping 237.8 percent increase in its flat fee on residential customers in the Upstate – which Ulbrich termed “the highest (fee hike) requested by any of the publicly traded electric utilities in the nation.”
According to Ulbrich, Duke’s proposed increases would result in a base rate that is “the highest in the nation for investor-owned utilities.” Not only that, the rate hike “is structured in a way that will have disproportionate impact on low-income households.”
“South Carolina’s low-income residents spend an average of 14 percent of their income on energy,” Ulbrich wrote. “We need to ask why one of the poorest states in the nation is being burdened with some of the highest electric rates.”
Good question …
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As we have previously reported, Duke is continuing to deal with ongoing fallout from the company’s various coal ash fiascos – which according to reporter Emery Dalesio of The Associated Press could wind up costing the company in excess of $5 billion.
In February of 2014, a Duke-owned facility in Eden, North Carolina – just south of the North Carolina-Virginia border in Rockingham County – spilled an estimated 39,000 tons of coal ash (and 27 million gallons of waste water) into the Dan River. Duke pleaded guilty to criminal negligence in connection with this incident, which exposed “pervasive, system-wide shortcomings” in its handling of coal ash.
The company has dealt with additional coal ash issues in the aftermath of flooding from Hurricane Florence last fall. In fact, these issues prompted investors to rip the company over its handling of the “dirty” energy source.
And while Duke was not one of the utilities involved in the calamitous #NukeGate disaster in Jenkinsville, S.C. – its recent abandonment of a planned nuclear power station near Gaffney, S.C. could wind up costing its ratepayers $636 million, according to reporter Deon Roberts of The (Charlotte, N.C.) Observer.
Duke Energy Carolinas provides power to 591,000 residential customers in Greenwood, Greenville, Lancaster Spartanburg and York counties. Meanwhile, Duke Energy Progress serves approximately 169,000 residential customers in Darlington, Florence and Sumter counties.
Upstate residents interested in being heard on these proposed rate hikes have three opportunities to do so next week. The SCPSC is holding public hearings in Spartanburg, Anderson and Greenville on March 12, 13 and 14, respectively.
According to Ulbrich, “testimony about hardships to low-income families is particularly important.”
“If you are a low-income family, or you work with or have low-income friends and neighbors, stories about the impact of this rate hike on their budgets will be particularly important,” she wrote.
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