Duke seeks first base rate increase in S.C. in decades

A growing service area and expanded customer energy needs have led Duke Energy Progress to seek its first base rate increase in 28 years for its 168,000 South Carolina customers.

The utility has filed a request with the Public Service Commission of South Carolina (PSCSC) to increase revenues by about $79 million, for an overall increase of 14.5 percent.

“We work every day to keep costs as low as possible for our customers,” said Clark Gillespy, Duke Energy state president — South Carolina. “We have made significant investments in recent years to build a smarter energy infrastructure to meet the needs of a growing customer base, and to comply with rigid environmental requirements at the state and federal level. These investments are the main reason for the proposed increase.”

The impact of the requested increase would be reduced by the $16 million decrease in fuel charges that took effect July 1. The decrease reflects the benefit of the new, highly efficient natural gas generation plants that represent the largest portion of this request.

This effectively reduces the overall impact on customer bills from 14.5 percent to 11.6 percent.

Even with the proposed bill increase, customers will pay lower rates than they did in 1988, when adjusted for inflation. To put this in perspective, the average cost of a gallon of gas 28 years ago was $1.08, and a loaf of bread cost about $1.25.

Under Duke Energy’s proposed new rate structure, the typical monthly bill the average residential customer pays will be $12 less than the national average.

The average rate increase from the proposed changes for residential customers is 15.4 percent, while commercial and industrial customers would see an increase of 14.3 percent. The specific increase for individual customers will vary, depending on the rate they pay.

If the proposal is approved, the typical residential customer who uses 1,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity monthly would pay about $121.37 per month – an increase of $16.60 — beginning on Jan. 1, 2017.