Duke Energy Asks for Coal Ash Cleanup Rate Hike in North Carolina

Ash impoundments at the Duke Energy Cape Fear Plant shown in 2014. Credit: Waterkeeper Alliance Inc., Flickr Creative Commons.

Duke Energy submitted a request to North Carolina regulators asking for a hike in electricity rates on Friday. If approved, commercial and industrial customers would see an average increase in rates of 10.9%, The Charlotte Observer reported.

More than half of the increase would go to cleaning up coal ash in the state, according to Duke Energy. Coal ash, a byproduct of electricity generation that contains toxic heavy metals, spilled into the Dan River watershed at Eden, North Carolina in February 2014. As a result, the electric power holding company closed all of its ash basins in the state and faces cleanup costs that will likely total $2.5 billion by 2021, the paper reported.

In June, the company’s subsidiary Duke Energy Progress made a separate request of the commission, asking for a 14.9% average increase across customer classes.

This isn’t the first time Duke Energy and its subsidiary have requested rate hikes to foot cleanup costs. Last year Duke Energy Progress requested a 14.5% rate increase in South Carolina for that reason.

Coal ash cleanup is a controversial issue in the region, especially who should ultimately foot the bill for it. Earlier this year, the North Carolina Utilities Commission ruled that Dominion North Carolina Power could pass coal ash pond cleanup costs in the state and Virginia onto its customers.

In addition to dealing with coal ash, Duke Energy’s rate hike request on Friday would go toward investing in modernizing power plants, generating cleaner power, and improving reliability. The company says the rate hike would generate an additional $647 million in annual revenue, The Charlotte Observer reported.

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