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Faith community fights for affordable energy
Activists press N.C. to change rules on power
 
Published Monday, April 8, 2013 8:29 am
by Stephanie Carroll Carson, N.C. News Service

RALEIGH – North Carolina utilities want to raise rates again, and people in the state's faith community are speaking up at public hearings and at services to keep rates affordable and encourage the use of renewable energies.


The Duke Energy-Progress Energy merger and anticipated rate hikes have some residents concerned about that impact the change will have on their energy bills and on the environment. The Rev. Stephen Halsted of Community United Church of Christ in Raleigh declared that the new Duke Energy should be initiating change.


“The energy utilities need to be leading us in the proper direction to be more responsible in the use of our resources, and they're just doing more of the same that they've always done,” he asserted.


Currently, Progress is asking for a rate hike that could leave the average consumer paying $100 more a year for electricity. At the same time, Duke Energy is asking state regulators to approve a rate hike of almost 10 percent. Unlike other states that Duke Energy serves, North Carolina law permits utilities to charge customers for improvement projects that are still under construction. Jean Larson coordinates the monthly Earth Sabbath in Asheville and regularly shares information on the merger with attendees.


“From a faith perspective, this just does not seem right to be doing this in a state because of this law, and in other states doing it differently," she stated.


Progress Energy needs $183 million extra a year to cover the cost of three new natural-gas power plants and an upgrade at a nuclear power plant. Larson said it’s up to the state to change the rules.


“They are playing by the rules that are set right now by the Legislature and by the utilities commission. It’s hard to fault Duke and Progress,” she said. “They’re taking advantage of what is available here."


Larson and Halsted both work with North Carolina Interfaith Power and Light, an organization dedicated to encouraging the use of renewable energy and fair energy prices.


The merger of Duke and Progress Energy will make it the largest utility in the country, serving 7 million customers in six states.

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