Consumers’ Research, a consumer advocacy group, sent a letter on Aug. 24 to the North Carolina Utilities Commission stating, “We implore the commission to put an end to the abuse of North Carolina consumers by Duke Energy.”
“If you look at their application for the most recent increase in rates, which they want to raise nearly 20 percent over the next few years, they cite many of these things: building EV charging stations, which they say they’re going to have to have subsidized by the ratepayers, and retiring perfectly working coal and natural gas power plants,” Mr. Hild said. “Obviously they’re going to have to waste the resources they’ve already paid for to build new ones.”
Duke Energy, headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, is one of America’s largest energy holding companies. It supplies electricity to 8.2 million customers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky, and owns 50,000 megawatts of energy capacity.
“The country-club sets that run some of these companies, especially utilities, seem to think they’ve found a way to promote left-wing policies, and then pass whatever costs result from that on to ratepayers, because they have this monopoly,” O.H. Skinner, executive director of the Alliance for Consumers, told The Epoch Times.
“The utilities space is one of the safest places to push this because there’s no real competition and they can always pass it along,” Mr. Skinner said. “What do they care? Everyday consumers will just pay more.”
“[Duke Energy] are one of the biggest funders of political campaigns in the state of North Carolina, and those are the people, the legislature and the governor, who appoint members to the North Carolina Utilities Commission,” Mr. Hild said. “Basically, they are able to influence the politics that then decide whether they can increase rates on consumers.”
Cost of Net Zero 'Mostly Unknown'How much more consumers will ultimately have to pay to fund the transition remains unclear. According to a fact-finding report by the NCUC, the “costs that Duke will incur and, therefore, the implications for Duke’s customers remain mostly unknown.”
The report states: “Duke asserts that this proceeding ‘boils down to one simple question: what are the near-term reasonable steps to be taken by Duke Energy to begin meaningful and substantial progress towards the 70% Interim Target on the path to Carbon Neutrality.’” Duke sought a pledge from regulators that “it will be assured future recovery of such initial project development costs” through rate increases, whatever those costs may turn out to be and whether or not the investments deliver as projected.
“The language around these green energy policies is supposed to create the impression that there is no alternative and so we have to do this,” Mr. Skinner said. “Normally, when someone’s just telling you how great their product is and they never to tell you how much it costs, you can sure bet that at the end of the day it’s going to cost a heck of a lot more than you want it to.”
“To put it in comparable terms, that increase is equivalent to half of global corporate profits and one-quarter of total tax revenue in 2020,” McKinsey states.
A British public-private organization called the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has urged customers to stop heating their homes in the evening to help the government hit its net-zero target.
Despite the rate hikes in North Carolina, the NCUC reports appeared to indicate significant support for Duke’s Carbon Plan.
Some of the NCUC hearings attendees, which included corporations like Walmart, Kroger, Apple, Google, and Meta and advocacy groups like the Sierra Club, “testified to their concern regarding DEP’s use of fossil fuels, including coal and natural gas power plants, fracking, and DEP not adequately increasing the use of clean energy and renewables,” the Commission reported. The NCUC further noted that “witnesses stated their preference for renewable generation, including wind, solar, and hydropower, and for more aggressive implementation of energy efficiency (EE) measures, battery storage, and improvements to the transmission grid.”
In addition, the NCUC reported, “some public witnesses voiced their view that DEP’s executive compensation and shareholder dividends are excessive.”
Duke Energy spokesman Neil Nissan explained her pay increase as follows: “Under Lynn Good’s leadership in 2022, Duke Energy had a strong year delivering value to customers and shareholders as we made progress executing our strategy, responding to difficult external pressures, and advancing our clean energy transformation.”
As sometimes happens when companies take on progressive causes, Duke Energy has also been criticized for not going far enough in its transition agenda.
Grid Stability an Increasing ConcernIn addition to rate hikes, the reliability of the electric grid has increasingly become a concern.
The NCUC fact-finding report states: “the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), the federal regulatory authority whose mission is to assure the effective and efficient reduction of risks to the reliability and security of the grid, has acknowledged that traditional resource planning methods may not consider the real-world grid impacts and interactions of an evolving resource mix with less baseload generation and more variable generation, inverter-based resources, storage, and distributed energy resources (DERs), leading to potential generation or transmission insufficiencies.”
The NERC further warned that “in the SERC-E region, which includes North Carolina, shrinking capacity and demand growth cause a risk of shortfall in extreme cold weather events.”
Some who were present at the NCUC rate hearing “testified about persons and communities often hardest hit by climate change, including those of low-to-moderate income levels and people of color, who because of excessive power bills and the cost of electric bills, often must make difficult decisions prioritizing basic necessities … Witnesses also testified about the negative correlation between climate change and public health. Witnesses pointed to the increase in cases of asthma, post-traumatic stress disorder, and a person’s lack of physical activity due to extreme temperatures.”
“The emergency outage events this month particularly underscore the need for an orderly transition away from fossil fuels to low and zero carbon dioxide emitting generating resources while maintaining or improving the reliability of the electric grid,” the Commission stated in a press release.
The consensus solution in North Carolina to rising energy costs and health disorders was to shut down existing fossil fuel plants and to spend more than $100 billion over the next decade to build a network of coastal and inland wind turbines and solar farms, and construct EV charging stations, which they hope will moderate the weather. While low-income consumers may not be able to afford EVs and may have to give up other things to pay higher energy bills, the health issues attributed to climate change would hopefully be mitigated as well.
Among the largest shareholders in Duke Energy are BlackRock, Vanguard, and State Street. In May, seventeen state attorneys general filed a motion with the FERC, attempting to block BlackRock from acquiring large shares in America’s utility companies.
Duke Energy, which has a 24-hour media hotline, did not respond to a request to comment for this article. The NCUC declined to comment for this article, but directed The Epoch Times to its reports, which were referenced in this article.