Duke Energy, the state's largest electric utility, will raise customer rates in January under an approval this morning from the N.C. Utilities Commission.
The effect on a typical residential customer will be about $7 a month, but the actual amount will vary by house size and energy usage.
The Charlotte-based power company will phase in the rate increase over two years. The company will raise rates 3.8 percent in January and raise rates again by 3.2 percent in 2011.
Duke has 2.4 million customers in the Carolinas, including more than 160,000 customers in Chapel Hill, Durham and other parts of the western Triangle.
The amount of the increases are based on an October compromise agreement with the Public Staff, the state's consumer advocacy agency in utility rate cases.
The increase will be the company's first base rate increase since 1991. The base rate sets a regulated utility's profit margin and excludes costs for fuel, environmental compliance and green energy investments.
Commissioner Robert Owens Jr. of Manteo disagreed with his colleagues, and wrote a separate opinion arguing the rate increase was too big.
"Simply put, this is the worst possible time to raise electricity rates on Duke's customers and put a further drag on the North Carolina economy," he wrote. "The rate increase and shareholder return allowed by the majority in this case are too hight in consideration of the current economic conditions and burdens being faced by North Carolina residential and business customers."