Groups Launch Drive for Affordable Electricity, Hope To Minimize Impact of Rate Hikes on Power Shutoffs

Published Friday, December 14, 2012 at 1:22 pm

December 14, 2012. Everyone enjoys holiday lights, but for a growing number of North Carolinians, simply keeping the lights on in their homes each month has become a growing challenge.

That’s why consumer advocates, energy watchdogs and residential ratepayers are coming together to urge the NC Utilities Commission to ask Progress and Duke Energy to adopt a responsible plan to meet the state’s future energy needs without putting unfair burdens on residential consumers, small businesses and municipalities.

In preparation for a series of public hearings on Progress Energy rate hikes that begin in February, the groups are kicking off a petition and public comments drive where concerned residents will weigh in on how rate hikes will affect them.

“I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that an outfit that would pay its CEO $15 million for a morning’s work, and see him out the door with a modest $44 million package, would now demand more blood from the economically beleaguered citizens of North Carolina,” said Gene Nichol, director of the UNC Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity. “But I am. No matter how cynical you become about this monopoly, you can’t keep pace. Last year, 236,144 Progress and Duke ratepayers had their power shut off — the bulk of whom because they couldn’t afford payment. Through the end of October this year, there have already been over 200,000 residences disconnected. It looks like they’re shooting for 400,000 in 2013. Have a Merry Christmas.”

Last year, 236,144 Progress and Duke ratepayers had their power shut off for non-payment. Through the end of October this year, there have already been over 200,000 residences disconnected.

Debra Tyler-Horton of AARP North Carolina has been meeting with community and religious leaders across the state. “For a growing number of older adults who are strapped with higher out-of-pocket medical costs — an increase in Medicare premiums, and Social Security cost of living increases that aren’t keeping pace with the rising costs of food, gasoline and other day-to-day necessities — utility costs are an issue that is causing great concern,” she said.

Terry Allebaugh, executive director of Housing For New Hope in Durham, sees firsthand the impact that increased utility rates will have on the people that his organization serves. Housing For New Hope is a highly regarded organization in the Triangle and throughout the state because of their innovative work to prevent and end homelessness. The organization provides many types of housing assistance including assistance with utility payments through its emergency assistance and rapid re-housing programs.

“These are hard-working families trying to keep up with climbing costs,” Allebaugh said. “High electric rates are already unaffordable and if Progress or Duke are allowed to increase their rates, it is layering another level of burden upon those already struggling to afford the basic necessities of living. We are especially concerned about energy affordability during high-use periods through the cold weather months.”

The petition can be found at www.action.aarp.org/nc

Concerned residents can also send comments directly to the NC Utilities Commission at www.statements@ncuc.net

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