South Carolina’s Public Service Commission approved Duke Energy Carolinas’ request to raise utility bills by 10.4%, which will amount to more than $12 per month for a typical residential customer. The blame is being laid on rising fossil fuel costs.
“We are disappointed that the Public Service Commission continues to pass 100% of rising fuel costs to customers without addressing the fundamental problem: heavy reliance on fossil fuel resources exposes customers to substantial cost risk, as opposed to the significantly cleaner, more affordable resources that are available and ready to go,” said Kate Mixson, staff attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center.
Earlier this year the Public Service Commission rejected Duke’s attempt to plan for increased use of renewable energy. Yet this is the third time this year that the Public Service Commission has approved utility rate increases due to rising gas costs without addressing its impact on customers and the underlying problem.
“The risks of relying too heavily on fuel-dependent resources will be visible in customers’ bills during a time when many families already have to make tough financial decisions,” said Megan Chase-Muller, state policy director at Upstate Forever, a nonprofit conservation organization that protects land, water, and the unique character in upstate South Carolina “We hope Duke and Commissioners recognize the impact they have on regular customers burdened with absorbing all of the cost risk for fossil fuels and take steps to prioritize renewables,” Chase-Muller said.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, almost 90% of U.S. homes are heated primarily by natural gas or electricity. As noted in its Winter Fuels Outlook, which was released this month, the EIA expects wholesale prices for natural gas to be higher this winter than last winter. Because natural gas is the most common fuel used to generate electricity in the United States, higher natural gas prices lead to higher retail prices for electricity.
“Our current system puts all the risk on customers. Customers pay for all the gas and coal burned in Duke power plants; the utility’s shareholders do not,” said Maggie Shober, Research Director at Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “South Carolinians will continue to be hit with fuel rate increases until the Commission requires utilities to expand affordable clean resources that lower customer bills like energy efficiency and renewable energy.”
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