This is a re-post of a blog from July 15, 2013. Sally makes some excellent points.
Corporate Culprits in Charlotte
And then there’s Duke Energy, the other culprit and the focus of this post.
Across the planet, anxious eyes are on Duke Energy…because it is the world’s largest corporate utility. Duke’s stature in the energy sector is formidable. As we approach the climate’s tipping point, will Duke use its influence to lead the world away from the economic and social chaos of a disintegrating climate? The answer appears to be simple, and definitive. No. Duke’s “2012 Sustainability Report” blithely admits to “an upward trend in our CO2 emissions in the years ahead.” Duke’s CO2 emissions will keep rising because their 20-year plan (the “IRP”) calls for continued heavy reliance on coal, bolstered by nuclear and natural gas. With this plan, Charlotte’s electric company is likely to maintain its distinction as our nation’s second-largest utility emitter of CO2.
So, surely Duke has some clean renewables in the mix. Maybe elsewhere, but not here. While other utilities across the country are turning to wind and solar, Duke Energy Carolinas plans to derive only 2.2% of its generating capacity from wind and solar, and only 2.2% from energy-efficiency programs for at least the next 20 years. Shocking but not that surprising, when you understand the corporate mindset that made Duke the biggest in the world. You see, the more power plants Duke builds, the more profit they make. Duke is guaranteed by the state to receive a 10.7% rate of return on equity (ROE), which includes construction projects. Solar threatens this business model. For one thing, solar panels can allow families to generate on-site power, rather than buying electricity from a huge utility. With such a decentralized power source, Duke would lose considerable control over ratepayers.
Ever wonder who pays for all the construction of expensive power plants with Duke’s current plan? Ratepayers like you and me. Not North Carolina’s new energy-hogging data centers (server farms). They and many giant corporations get special deals and much lower rates. (Check out “Duke’s rate rigging scheme” by NC WARN for a great explanation of that.) No, you and I will pay for the new plants we don’t want, or at least, that’s Duke’s plan for us, as captive ratepayers. Since Duke’s a monopoly in NC, we have no other electric utility to choose.
But we do have a voice, and we have a responsibility to use it.
Duke is right now seeking approval from the Utilities Commission for an almost 14% rate increase for the average residence and 10% for small to medium-sized businesses. (The already low rates for many industrial customers and data centers will increase only 3%.) The rate-hike request will be Duke’s third in just four years. They’re also requesting to increase their guaranteed rate of return (ROE) to 11.25% — a very high profit margin compared to most other businesses. One frustrating aspect of this rate-hike request, for us ratepayers, is that Duke wouldn’t need these new power plants if they aggressively promoted conservation, energy-efficiency, and solar rooftops instead.
If the idea of paying for more than your share of unnecessary plants makes you mad, you have a chance this month to tell the Utilities Commission, in person. The Utilities Commission, which regulates Duke and must approve their rate-hike requests, is holding public hearings throughout North Carolina this month. Charlotte’s hearing is June 26 (Weds) at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse, Courtroom 5310. The hearing itself starts at 6:00, but will be preceded by a 5:00 public rally and a press conference outside the courthouse. Each speaker will have about 3 minutes, but that’s plenty of time to make your point. To help clarify your thoughts on what you want to say about the rate hikes, you can attend one of these two training meetings.
June 18 (Tues) 6:30 – 8:00 PM
Area 15 Meeting Room
516 E 15th Street, Charlotte, NC 28206
June 22 (Sat) 1:00 to 3:00 PM
Mugs Coffee Shop
5126 Park Rd, Suite 1D
Charlotte, NC 28209
Keep an eye on the Facebook page for Greenpeace-Charlotte for announcements about possible later training sessions. For yet more information, including hearings in other towns and contact info, see Consumers Against Rate Hikes.org. Or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Utilities Commission is our best opportunity right now to influence Duke’s future actions. This is the time to act. Without rate hikes, Duke can’t continue its current plan for the future. If you care about the world your grandchildren will live in, if you care about your pocketbook, please come out to the rally on June 26. Stay and speak if you can, or leave a written statement; tell them you object to paying for more dirty and dangerous plants. The Utilities Commission and the media will be listening.
Sally Kneidel, PhD.
Sally is an author, blogger and educator who volunteers for Greenpeace and NC WARN
Read the full post at Corporate Culprits in Charlotte