Duke Energy wants big rate increases for its new NC coal plant. Here’s what Durham ratepayers should do.

North Carolina Conservation Network

To all readers in North Carolina — Duke University students, I’m talking to you — please spread the word from the North Carolina Conservation Network on the Duke Energy Rate Hike Hearing at the Durham City Hall this Thursday evening:

Duke Energy is seeking an 18% rate hike this year for residential electricity customers. Over 13.5% would cover costs such as the Cliffside coal-fired power plant, now under construction west of Charlotte. Another 4.5% increase has recently been approved for rising costs of coal. The NC Utilities Commission has scheduled six hearings across the state to hear public comment on whether or not to approve the proposed rate hike.

Please attend the public hearing in Durham, NC to show your opposition to this unnecessary rate hike!

Yeah, Duke Energy has argued “We Can ‘Decarbonize’ Without Painful Electricity Price Hikes,” it supports the climate bill, and it just quit the scandal-ridden coal front group over the issue.  But they are still a big coal utility, and building new expensive, dirty plants when energy efficiency would be much cheaper and infinitely cleaner.  Why should NC ratepayers suffer for Duke’s bad decisions?

The NCCN is “a statewide network of over 100 environmental, community and environmental justice organizations focused on protecting North Carolina’s environment and public health.”  Click here for details on attending the rate hearing.

You’re perhaps wondering about how Duke can get a rate increase for rising coal costs when the price has collapse, as the figure from the Energy Information Administration below shows:

Average Weekly Coal Commodity Spot Prices

Well, let’s just say public utility commissions are not notoriously fast on these matters, so this would look to be covering Duke’s costs retroactively.  But given the under-utilization of natural gas plants in this region of the country — the average utilization of natural”gas”fired capacity by electric generators was about 11% to 13% in 2008 (see “Game changer, Part 2: Unconventional gas makes the 2020 Waxman-Markey target so damn easy and cheap to meet) — efficiency and natural gas and biomass should be able to more than cover the power delivered from any new coal plants at a far lower price.

It’d probably be cheaper to simply stop building the new friggin’ coal plant.  Demonstrating that would be a good project for Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment and their dynamic dean (see “The Bjorn Irrelevancy: Duke dean disses Danish delayer“).

5 Responses to Duke Energy wants big rate increases for its new NC coal plant. Here’s what Durham ratepayers should do.

  1. Jerry Langford says:

    Utilities ask for rate increases every year. They always ask for more than they need and settle for less. Since they are a monopoly of sorts, they expect to pass on the costs of new generating plants.

  2. Dan K. says:

    Thank you for raising this issue. We at the Nicholas School are trying to organize a group to go on Thursday. Let’s see what happens!

    Thanks again,

  3. Jay Turner says:

    This just points out the absolute necessity of changing the ground rules so that electric utilities have the proper incentives to pursue efficiency and the proper cost of CO2 so that they make the right decisions on their mix of power sources.

  4. Bob Wallace says:

    Absolutely. Time for the North Carolinians who purchase power from Duke to open a discussion among themselves as to whether they can comfortably conserve away their need for another coal plant.

    They could use as a starting point that citizens of North Carolina use on average 14.9 kWh per day while there are twelve states whose citizens use an average of 10 kWh or less. One state’s citizens use less than half per person than does the average NC citizen.

    And that difference is not due to climatic differences, the conservation states are spread all around the country.>

  5. Bob E. says:

    Best of luck to Nicholas School students. I think it brings up a possibly very interesting discussion: While there is an obvious role for academia to lead solutions to climate change through science, policy research, and communication to the public, what is the role of academic leaders for particular issues like this?

    My sense is that a question this specific (Duke Energy’s rate case) should only be address obliquely by a Dean, speaking in key principles. Head-on activism might be better reserved for the Dean in his/her role as a citizen.