AARP Testimony: June 20 Spartanburg PSC Hearing

Posted on 06/21/2013 by | AARP South Carolina | Comments

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OFFICIAL TESTIMONY BY TERESA ARNOLD, AARP SOUTH CAROLINA STATE DIRECTOR

PRESENTED TO THE SOUTH CAROLINA PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION

DUKE ENERGY RATE HEARING – SPARTANBURG, SC JUNE 20, 2013

“Good evening, I am Teresa Arnold, AARP South Carolina state director representing more than 140,000 AARP members in Duke Energy’s South Carolina service area.”

“With the takeover of Progress Energy, Duke Energy Corporation is now the largest electricity provider in the United States, with more than 7 million customers in 6 states.  Duke is large and profitable, but continues to ask too much of its customers, many of whom are still struggling economically.”

“We sent out an informal e-mail survey to some of our members to find out their thoughts on a Duke rate hike.  Our first e-alert generated over 200 responses.  Virtually every respondent said that they did not believe the PSC should allow Duke to raise rates.”

“Most people (88 percent, in fact) said paying electricity bills is challenging for them or people they know. Many respondents also provided detailed responses about how difficulties paying electricity bills have impacted their lives.”

“Fifty respondents signed up for our SC Utilities Watchdog Email List to be more involved in a direct way to fight this rate hike.”

“My words cannot match the power of our members struggling to pay their bills.  Here are a few from our survey:”

I am a single 61 year old working woman, have worked all my life since the age of 16 (actually 14 in a peach shed) and have never asked for a dime of public assistance and hope I never have to.  My mom and dad taught me that type of work ethic and they lived it too.  My mom is widowed now and worked in textiles her whole life.  She is 86 years old and struggles financially.  I try to help her as much as I can every month.  I don’t know how they expect people to continue paying higher and higher electric bills with small social security checks in her case and wages frozen for 6 years in my case.  Everything goes up but salary.  (Deborah)

I understand, like any business needs to make a profit to survive. However, taking advantage of the elderly people and disable people that are on a fixed income is not the way to do it. Profits are one thing, but excessive profits are outright stealing from the poor to give to the already rich. When will greed be called what it is? I own some duke energy stock and I make a small profit on it, which is plenty. Don’t let greed rule your business. A 16% increase is nothing but Greed and totally uncalled for.  (Tommy)

I have been trying to use less electricity each month and my bill is still high. I cut the heat down low in the winter and use the air when the temperature is above 80 degrees. The light bulbs have been changed I unplugged everything not being use daily. I have implemented other energy saving techniques and still I am struggling to pay the bill each month. I meet many people who pay more for utilities than rent some months.  (Audrey)

“We’ve been down this road before – Duke Energy wants more of our money. AARP South Carolina believes that Duke Energy is once again out of line.  This time they are asking state regulators for a 16.3 percent increase in residential utility cost.  For the 540,000 upstate South Carolina customers, one more increase will require folks to dig even deeper into their piggy banks just to keep the lights on.”

“If the full request is granted by the South Carolina Public Service Commission, an average user of 1000 kwh will see an increase of 17.83 per month which will equates to a $213.96 yearly increase.  What could you do with over $200 in your pocket? Most folks are already pinching pennies to pay for monthly living expenses, medical cost, and the yo-yoing cost of a tank of gas. The current rate case also ignores customers, and seeks an increased ROE of 11.25%. This rate of return is excessive in today’s market.”

“AARP has heard from many individuals in the upstate who live on fixed incomes and say they are doing all they can to keep their power bill low.  That means doing without air conditioning or heat and even sitting in the dark.  They often wonder how a big corporation can continue to take and take from them while their disposable income is being gobbled up and turned into corporate profits.”

“Why can’t Duke Energy do the same? South Carolina consumers should not have to make up for setbacks in other state. Shutting down a nuclear plant in Florida, cost overruns at a coal gasification plant in Indiana, a recent create case settlement in Ohio may have Duke Management look for revenues elsewhere.  Just don’t look here in South Carolina as consumers here are tapped out.”

“AARP hopes that the Public Service Commission will take notice of this third request and rule in favor of South Carolina consumers. Now is the right time for the PSC to consider consumers here in South Carolina and deny this rate hike.”