Written by Kunjal Bastola, CleanAIRE NC 2023 Summer Associate
“Now more than ever, addressing the energy needs of North Carolinians requires an approach rooted in environmental justice and equity.” ~ Jeff Robbins, Executive Director, CleanAIRE NC
On Thursday, June 22, dozens of Charlotte community members gathered outside the Mecklenburg County Courthouse to protest the rate increase of nearly 17% that Duke Energy Carolinas recently proposed.
The NC Utilities Commission (NCUC), the regulatory agency that oversees rates and services, has scheduled public hearings all over the state over the course of the next few months to get public feedback on the proposed rate increase, one of those hearings being held in Charlotte this past Thursday.
Prior to the hearing, local community-based organizations, such as CleanAIRE NC, 350 Charlotte, and Sunrise Movement Charlotte, organized a rally and press conference.
“Energy cost burden is a significant concern countrywide and here in North Carolina” ~ Jerome Wagner, 350 Charlotte
The Proposed Rate Increase
Many of the most affected by this rate increase would be households already facing financial burdens, especially low-income and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) households.
“These are households for which any increase will hurt, pushing many that are highly burned into this severely burned population,” said Jerome Wagner of 350 Charlotte during the press conference.
With signs, some reading “NO RATE HIKE” and “CLEAN ENERGY”, activists and community members expressed their opinions on the proposed rate increase.
Margaret Peeples, a Charlotte resident, said “Utilities and the energy that they get should be from clean sources. There is no point in digging more carbon out of the earth to pollute the air.”
If approved by the Utilities Commission, the average annual residential power bill will be $240 higher than it is today. A minimum-wage resident would have to work an additional two weeks each year to afford this.
Charlotteans Express Concerns
“Up until this point, the Utilities Commission has quite honestly been in Duke Energy’s pocket. They have lacked transparency in their processes and have not listened to the public statements on these problems,” said Jessica Finkel of Sunrise Movement Charlotte.
After the press conference, more than a dozen participants headed inside the courthouse to present and hear public testimonies on the rate increase.
CleanAIRE NC Board Member Billie Anderson spoke at the hearing, where she expressed her family’s concerns.
“Instead of investing in clean renewable energy, our family would be paying more for Duke Energy to expand its use of dirty energy, which exacerbates my son’s asthma,” she said.
With hearings scheduled over the next few months this summer, North Carolina residents, and specifically Duke Energy customers, will still have opportunities to weigh in. See our blog post Don’t let Duke Energy Raise Our Electric Bills for more information on upcoming public hearings in Winston-Salem and Durham, and ways to attend virtual and/or submit comments online.
Residents Protest Proposed Duke Energy Rate Hike in Charlotte (Queen City Nerve | June 27, 2023)
‘Something absolutely inequitable about this’ | Charlotteans protest Duke Energy’s proposed rate hike (WCNC-TV | June 23, 2023)
Rally opposes proposed Duke Energy rate increase (Spectrum News | June 22, 2023)
NC Group Opposes Duke Energy Carolinas’ Proposed Rate Hikes (Public News Service | June 20, 2023)