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May 21st, 2019
By Shelley Robbins
Duke Energy Carolinas filed for a rate increase for customers in the Upstate in early November of 2018. Although it was their first rate increase request since 2013, Duke shocked the Upstate by piling the entire requested increase in the base facilities charge — the fixed portion of your bill that you must pay before you ever use one kilowatt hour of power. This would have more than tripled that charge, from $8.29 per month to $28.
Upstate Forever partnered with the Southern Environmental Law Center, the NAACP, and the Coastal Conservation League to intervene in the case, objecting to the proposed rate structure (many other intervenors challenged other aspects of the rate increase, including the proposed rate of return and the request to earn a rate of return on the Lee nuclear plant in Cherokee County that was never built).
AARP South Carolina requested public night hearings to be held in the Upstate, and the Public Service Commission of South Carolina granted that request and set up hearings in Spartanburg, Anderson, and Greenville for March 12, 13 and 14. Those hearings, attended by about a thousand citizens — taking time away from their families and evening work — made an indelible impression on the Commission. They heard you. The final order has at last been issued: Duke’s basic facilities charge will be raised to $11.96.
Greenville Commissioner Tom Ervin drafted the preliminary Executive Order, stating: "We heard compelling testimony from the Company’s customers at public hearings held in Spartanburg, Anderson, and Greenville... (T)he CEO and executive team demonstrated they were 'tone deaf' as to how a 238% increase in the Basic Facilities Charge would have negatively and adversely impacted the elderly, the disabled, the low income and low use customers."
The Commission also agreed with us on how this structure would impact energy efficiency and solar: "High fixed charges would also have discouraged customer investments in energy efficient appliances as well as customer incentives to make their homes more energy efficient... (and) would also discourage customers from investing in solar panels. These high fixed charges would also have reduced customer control of their electric bills even if they use less power, which could lead to increased energy consumption."
We'd like to thank our partners NAACP, Coastal Conservation League and our attorneys at the Southern Environmental Law Center. But most of all, we would like to thank those of you who showed up to the public meetings and shared your thoughts. It made a huge difference.
You spoke. They listened. Thank you.