CHARLOTTE – In January, AARP members from the Piedmont and Western portions of North Carolina spoke out forcefully against Duke Carolinas’ rate hike proposal that will add about $20 a month to your electric bill.

At public hearings in Franklin, Greensboro and Charlotte, dozens of AARP members told members of the NC Utilities Commission that the 16.7 percent rate increase and a 50 percent hike in the monthly service charge the company seeks is too much for fixed income older adults and others.

Yvette Baker of Charlotte, was one of the many critics of the proposal. Baker said she was given a defibrillator last year due to a heart condition and has faced higher medical costs as a result of her disability.

She told the Charlotte Observer, “It’s very challenging to pay bills once a month on a fixed income with a teenage girl,” said Baker, who is on Social Security disability benefits. “So to ask me to come up with an extra 20 or so dollars more a month is a hardship on me.”

Shirley Harris, 73, is a grandmother who lives on a fixed income in a modest home in northwest Charlotte and already struggles with energy costs.

Harris told WSOC-TV that she believes the proposed rate increase for residential customers around Charlotte is outrageous.

“I think it’s important that we stand up and say, ‘No. We’re not doormats. We’re not going to let you run over us,’” Harris said. “We’ll have to do without something to pay these bills. It’s just really tough financially.”

In Greensboro, AARP volunteer John Merrell said, “A lot

AARP Volunteer John Merrill of Guilford County speaks out against the rate hike at the Greensboro public hearing in January.

of people are going to have to be juggling whether or not they can pay this extra amount of money or still be able to afford to buy medicine, groceries or other essentials that they need each month.”

Another AARP member who lives in Greensboro, David Sevier, told the Commission, “It’s a huge impact on their budget so it’s really not doable for many people so a lot of people would be cold in the winter and hot in the summer as a result.”

The hearings for the Duke Progress rate proposal conclude at 2:30 pm on Monday, February 19, 2018, and continuing as required, for testimony and cross examination of expert witnesses for Duke, the Public Staff-North Carolina Utilities Commission, and other intervenors. This hearing is likely to last several days and will be held in Commission Hearing Room 2115 on the Second Floor of the Dobbs Building, 430 North Salisbury, Raleigh.

The public is welcome to observe these proceedings, but there will be no opportunity for public testimony. These hearings follow the ones for an identical proposal by Duke-Progress, the company’s subsidiary that serves Central and Eastern North Carolina. No final ruling has been made on the Duke-Progress request.

Those who still want to weigh in on the rate hike proposal, can send their comments to