Winston-Salem, NC - Duke Energy is one step closer to raising rates more than 5 percent, but the NC Utilities Commission has to approve it.
The public had the chance to voice concerns at a public hearing on Wednesday. Dozens of people signed up to speak at the hearing, but it was what happened beforehand that made a bigger impression.
About 50 people stood outside the Forsyth County courthouse rallying against the proposed rate hike. Signs, stickers, costumes, and drums were part of the protest. The group carried several posters with pictures of even more people protesting the rate increase.
Bill Gupton is the Outreach Director with Consumers Against Rate Hikes. He organized the rally held before the hearing.
"People are tired of a rate hike every year or two from Duke," said Gupton. "This is the third since 2009. If this is approved, it will mean a 30 percent increase for families."
"Duke Power is making huge amounts of profit and our expense as consumers," said Kim Porter, another rally participant.
Duke Energy executives attended the hearing but not without walking by the protest. A spokesperson told WFMY News 2's Liz Crawford that Duke wants the money to pay for plant improvements and repairs.
Lisa Parrish with Duke Energy said, "More than 90 percent of the rate increase pays for capital investments that we have made on behalf of our customers to provide affordable, reliable, and increasingly clean electricity to our customers."
Inside the courthouse, a much calmer scene was mandated, but folks who testified still were emotional. Duke Energy and the NC Utilities Commission heard from several Duke customers. The hearing lasted more than two hours. The next public hearing is in Charlotte on June 26.
In February, Duke Energy asked for an average rate increase of 9.7 percent. They think the 5.1 percent rate increase is fair. The Utilities Commission is expected to make a decision on the rate hike by September.
WFMY News 2