Columbia, SC – Yesterday, the South Carolina Public Service Commission (PSC) unanimously ruled that Duke Energy Progress’s (DEP) unpopular mandatory monthly fee hike will be far less than what the utility originally proposed, adjusted down to an amount recommended by the Office of Regulatory Staff. Public pressure and expert testimony led to Duke Progress scaling back the fee hike as well as the PSC decision. The original increase would have increased the fee to $29 for residential customers, but with yesterday’s decision customers will see a much smaller increase of $2.72 each month.
The Commission heard customers’ concerns and responded to them. Many of these concerns were amplified by a campaign that included the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE), AARP of South Carolina, Consumer Reports, and other key allies. This was a true team effort and an example of a diverse set of allies working together to accomplish a positive result.
Advocates would have preferred that the increase in the mandatory monthly fee, the “basic facilities charge,” be limited to the same percentage as the overall rate hike, as recommended by expert witness testimonies filed by environmental, solar and low-income group intervenors in the rate case. Unfortunately, the Commission did not speak to this issue.
Advocates are gratified that the Commission sent a message that Duke Energy’s chief executive officer’s pay is not aligned with South Carolina values. As stated in the Commission’s directive: “Disallow 75 percent of the South Carolina allocation of Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good’s compensation and 50 percent of the compensation of the Company’s next three highest executives.”
Chris Carnevale of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy said, “It’s heartening to know that the Commission listened closely to the concerns of over a thousand customers who showed up at meetings across the state, and 1,600 more who have written letters or signed petitions to protest these unfair proposed fee hikes that would burden so many customers.”
Patrick Cobb, AARP South Carolina: “For the second straight week, the Public Service Commission has told an investor owned utility that enough is enough. With the decision, ratepayers should have confidence in the process and put other utility companies in South Carolina on notice that excess greed will not be tolerated.”
Shannon Baker-Branstetter, manager of cars and energy policy for Consumer Reports, said, “Duke Energy needs to do a better job of using ratepayers’ dollars wisely. We applaud the Commission for listening to ratepayers and standing up to unfair fee hikes. This should send a message to utilities across the country that, if you try to hit your ratepayers with huge fee increases, it can backfire.”
Rick Joye of Sustaining Way notes that “While it took a lot of pressure from stakeholders and advocates from around the state, we are thankful that Duke Energy Progress backed off its plan to triple its mandatory monthly fee, avoiding the overwhelming burden for lower income individuals to suddenly owe more money before even turning on a light! Realizing that utility bills continue to become increasingly unaffordable, Sustaining Way will continue to fight for our most vulnerable residents.”
Dean Adams, South Carolina Interfaith Power and Light: “We are thankful for the efforts of our ally organizations and the citizens who spoke out, and appreciate the Commission hearing the concerns. It is especially encouraging to know low income, elderly and disabled citizens have been spared the extreme additional expense initially requested.” – Dean Adams, SC Interfaith Power and Light.
Since 1985, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy has worked to promote responsible energy choices to ensure clean, safe and healthy communities throughout the Southeast. Learn more at cleanenergy.org. Follow us on social media, @cleanenergyorg.
AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With a nationwide presence and nearly 38 million members, AARP strengthens communities and advocates for what matters most to families: health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. AARP also produces the nation’s largest circulation publications: AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. To learn more, visit aarp.org or follow @AARP and @AARPadvocates on social media.
Consumer Reports is an independent, nonprofit member organization that works side by side with consumers for truth, transparency, and fairness in the marketplace. The advocacy division of CR directs our efforts to secure strong pro-consumer policies and practices in government and across industries. consumerreports.org/advocacy.
Sustaining Way is an interfaith nonprofit that empowers individuals and communities using education, collaboration, and workforce development to build a thriving, sustainable community and environment. sustainingway.org
South Carolina Interfaith Power and Light is inspired by diverse faith perspectives to respond to climate change and to care for the Earth and all its inhabitants by engaging people of faith to work together for a just and sustainable future. http://www.scipl.org/