Duke Energy requests 16.7% residential rate hike to cover coal ash clean-up

Duke Energy requested a 16.7 percent rate hike in residential electrical costs last week to pay for cleaning up coal ash sites. North Carolina regulators will consider the first rise in western and central N.C. since 2013. Factoring in other customers, the average increase across all groups is 13.6 percent.

In addition to recouping the cost of coal ash cleanup, Duke plans to  invest to modernize power plants, generate cleaner power and improve reliability. The higher rates would go into effect by April 1 but not later than May 1.

Duke estimates an average monthly bill would increase by $18.72 to $122.68. Commercial and industrial customers’ average increase would be 10.9 percent. If the rate hike is approved, $647 million would be added to Duke’s annual revenue.

Duke came under wide scrutiny for coal ash, a byproduct of generating electricity, in 2014. Duke was forced to close all 32 of its North Carolina ash basins. Duke shareholders will pay for fines and cleanup costs associated with the Dan River spill. Estimated coal ash cleanup costs in the Carolinas will total $2.5 billion by 2021.

Friday’s rate hike filing begins a long process including public hearings in the state before the commission makes a final ruling. Duke ultimately may not get approval for the amount requested as the negotiation process can result in a lower figure.