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AARP pushes back against steep electric rate hike request

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AARP weighed in on the request by Duke Energy Carolinas to raise residential electricity rates by 17.9 percent over the next three years. Here is what is on the public record opposing this steep rate increase.

AARP on behalf of its members in North Carolina is pleased to file comments on the Duke Energy North Carolina rate case. Many of our members are on fixed incomes. Over one-quarter, (26 percent) of North Carolinians ages 65 and older rely on Social Security for at least 90 percent of their income and all customers struggle with inflationary challenges.

Accordingly, too many in the state are in not well positioned for a nearly 18 percent electricity rate increase. AARP is concerned about the impact of an electric utility rate hike that will cost North Carolina residents around $238 more annually by the end of 2025.

AARP appreciates the efforts being made to address affordability for those least able to pay. However, AARP has the following concerns with the rate increase request:

· The NCUC should trim the spending request to reduce the rate increase request. Programs should either be phased in or eliminated.

· Duke should be encouraged to apply for federal infrastructure funds for some programs rather than using ratepayer dollars. It is unfair to have more of the rate increase burden placed on residential customers.

· The low-income bill credit of $42 to be paid for by a surcharge of $1.25 per kwh used needs further study. Wouldn’t a flat 25 percent bill discount be preferrable? Can shareholders pay for some of the subsidy cost?

· While apparently allowed by HB 951, AARP opposes a residential only decoupling mechanism as it is unclear why only residential customers only should be subject to this automatic rate increase paradigm.

· AARP also objects to the three-year rate plan based on speculative forecast costs. A one-year increase is enough.

· AARP opposes the use of surcharges and trackers of which three new ones are proposed. Such mechanisms limit proper regulatory review.

· The 10.4% return on equity is too high and out of line with what other utilities are being granted. The reduced risk to Duke the use of the new trackers, as well as three years of preapproved rate increases should mean the return is lowered commensurately.

· Finally, AARP opposes forcing Duke or any North Carolina utility into a regional transmission organization (RTO). The new Southeast Energy Exchange Market should be allowed to work and (if benefits are shown to customers) can grow into an RTO. In a fast-growing state like North Carolina, we cannot turn over resource adequacy and generation interconnection queue matters to a non-governmental, out of state entity that would no longer be accountable to the ratepayers of the state.

Thanks for considering these important factors. AARP appreciates the opportunity to comment.

If you have comments, the NC Utility Commission needs to hear from you. Please use this link to submit your comments to the Commission.

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