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N.C.'s nuclear legislation non-starter as Japan's crippled reactors spew radiation

The nuclear crisis in Japan has spooked N.C. lawmakers from voting this year on a legislation that would make it easier for Duke Energy and Progress Energy to raise rates to pay for new nuclear reactors.

That means the earliest the N.C. General Assembly could vote on the legal change sought by electric utilities would be during next year's legislative session, said Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers during a conference call with analysts this morning.

Mike Hager, vice chairman of the House Public Utilities Committee, said the nuclear proposal had enough support to pass until a tsunami disabled Japanese reactors in March.

Hager, a mechanical engineer who worked 16 years for Duke, said state officials should hold off on the nuclear proposal until the root causes of the Japanese crisis are analyzed.

He also said he has misgivings about advancing legislation that could add between $20 and $40 to a monthly household power bill at a time that many North Carolina counties are still racked by double-digit unemployment rates.

Progress Energy customers will get a price break

The falling cost of coal and other fuels means that Progress Energy customers in North Carolina will see a rate discount of about 4 percent starting in December.

The monthly bill of a typical residential customer will drop from about $106 to about $102, or nearly $50 over 12 months. This estimate applies to a household that uses 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity a month.

The change was approved late yesterday by the N.C. Utilities Commission.

Duke Energy to reduce power bills

Duke Energy's residential customers in this state can expect a 6.5 percent discount on their power bills starting next month.

The change will be a welcome surprise for recession-weary residents who have watched their power bills go up dramatically in recent years.

State regulators approved three rate adjustments this month for the Charlotte-based electric utility. The combined effect of the changes will reduce the monthly bill of a typical customer from $95.72 to $89.52.

Progress Energy to cut rates by 4 percent

Progress Energy plans to cut rates for the second year in a row after five consecutive years of rate increases.

The Raleigh-based power company asked state regulators this afternoon for permission to lower rates to reflect the decreasing cost of coal and other fuels used in power plants.

The electric utility wants to cut rates about 4 percent, or $4.12 a month for a typical residential customer, which is defined as 1,000 kilowatt hours a month.

If the N.C. Utilities Commission approves the request, the rate change is effective Dec. 1.

Natural gas costs to go up in Triangle, down in Charlotte

PSNC Energy, the Triangle's natural gas utility, is increasing rates
by about 10.5 percent effective March 1. The change will raise the
typical residential bill by about $9.50 a month.

It's the first increase for the company after eight consecutive
rate decreases. PSNC, with about 460,000 customers in the sate, has
been dropping its rates to reflect the falling cost of natural gas
prices.

The Gastonia-based utility requested the rate increase Monday with the N.C.
Utilities Commission. The commission is almost certain to approve the
request.

"The good news is they held off during January and February," said
Jeff Davis, director of the natural gas division of the Public Staff,
the state's consumer protection agency in utility rate cases.

Duke Energy to raise rates in January

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 Energy and Utility Commission public staff propose settlement on rate increase

The public staff for the state Utilities Commission and Duke Energy have reached an agreement on Duke's request for a 13 percent residential rate increase to cover operating expenses.

The propsal, which must be approved by the Utilities Commission, would allow Duke to raise residential rates by about 7 percent over two years, said Robert Gruber, executive director of the Utility Commission's public staff.

The two-year increase will add $7.31 to the monthly bill for a household that uses 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity. Currently, a Duke Energy customer using 1,000 kilowatt hours a month pays $90.19.

The first of the two rate increases will occur Jan. 1 and will add $3.70, or 4 percent, to an average residential customer's bill.

Duke's request for a 13 percent increase would have added about $11 a month to residential bills. Duke raised rates by about 5 percent on Sept. 1 to offset higher energy prices.

The Charlotte-based utility has 4 million electricity customers in five states, including about 160,000 in the western Triangle.

Duke Energy rate hike approved

Duke Energy's residential customers will pay nearly 5 percent more for electricity, beginning next month, to account for high fuel costs, the Charlotte Observer reports.

The N.C. Utilities Commission, which approved the increase today, allows electric utilities to adjust customer charges once a year to reflect fuel costs.

Duke spokeswoman Paige Sheehan said high coal prices and volatility, driven by worldwide demand, have driven up those adjustments for the past two years. A record-hot June 2008, leading to more fuel use, also drove up this year's adjustment.

The commission today approved a 4.8 percent increase in residential bills, pushing the average charge up $4.14 to $90.42 a month.

Charlotte-based Duke has more than 160,000 customers in the western Triangle. Read the full Charlotte Observer story here.

OWASA to vote on budget, rate hike; won't fund odor elimination

CHAPEL HILL -- The Orange Water and Sewer Authority will consider a $34-million budget Thursday night that reflects a 9.75-percent rate increase but won't have enough money to eliminate odor at the Mason Farm wastewater treatment plant.

In their ongoing battle with OWASA over odor in their neighborhood, Highland Woods residents spoke to the Chapel Hill Town Council Monday asking them to demand the utility complete the final phase of its odor elimination project by a certain date.

That date will have to be somewhere between 2011 and 2014, when OWASA's development permit requires that all construction at the Mason Farm plant be complete. OWASA is aiming to finish the project sometime in fiscal year 2010-2011, but its board refuses to promise that, citing the uncertainty of the global economy.

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