CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Duke Energy is asking for a 5% rate hike but many of those who crowded into a public hearing before the North Carolina Utilities Commission Wednesday night said they are already paying enough.
Outside, before the hearing started, protesters gathered to hear speakers condemn another rate hike for Duke -- which has already had three hikes in the past few years.
Opponents said Duke should not get an increase as long as the company continues to invest in new coal fired plants.
Among the speakers was Charlotte City Council member John Autry who said that city government will feel the pain of the increase like any other Duke customer.
"We need to encourage Duke Energy to look for new solutions, renewable solutions," Autry said.
Duke had its own staffers at the demonstration ready to defend the 5% increase request.
Company spokesperson Lisa Parrish said, "90% of this rate increase goes to pay for the billions we have invested to build new power plants that are more efficient."
Inside the hearing, many complained that the estimated $7 hike in an average bill was too much.
Sandra Wilbourn, who said she is on a fixed income, told the commission members, "You are putting the burden on the poor who are already burdened enough."
But other speakers, like Charlotte civic activist Yvonne Pettis, spoke in favor of the rate hike, saying the company had been responsive to she and her family since the days after Hurricane Hugo.
"If it takes a rate hike for Duke Energy to maintain the level of service they currently provide, so be it," Pettis said.
The commission will vote on the request some time after the first of next month.