Duke Energy rate case settlement reduces customer bill increases, expands funding for energy efficiency

Today, the South Carolina Public Service Commission approved a settlement agreed upon by all parties in Duke Energy’s rate case.

The Southern Environmental Law Center reached the settlement on behalf of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, the Coastal Conservation League, and Vote Solar.  The settlement agreement stipulates that  Duke would receive an annual base rate revenue increase of approximately $52.3 million which results in a rate increase to customers of 8.83% from current rates, prior to riders. This is a decrease of approximately $37 million from Duke’s original $89 million request and translates to a monthly increase of $10.95 for a typical residential customer using 1000 kWh per month in 2023. The agreement also commits Duke to take steps to expand its funding for energy efficiency programs for customers earning a lower income and improve the transparency of its grid planning.

The comprehensive settlement commits Duke to propose a new pilot program to target income qualified customers with high energy burdens and expand other opportunities to take advantage of energy efficiency improvements that will generate long-term bill savings. One pilot program Duke has agreed to propose in South Carolina would provide up-front financing for energy efficiency improvements that customers would pay back over time, while ensuring net bill reductions.

“The settlement’s expansion of low-income energy efficiency does much more than simply help households take control of their energy bills,” said Eddy Moore, Senior Energy Program Director at the Coastal Conservation League. “The provisions will begin the kind of comprehensive home energy programs needed to reduce the winter peaks that drove recent electric system reliability events.”

In addition, Duke has agreed to file a proposal to ramp up the budget for income-qualified programs to $1 million by 2025, roughly doubling the previous budget for this program. Energy efficiency advocates have long recommended that Duke increase the budget for its income-qualified programs to a level more commensurate with its other programs, and the settlement is a step in that direction.

“Income qualified programs are vital for households struggling to make ends meet—especially in South Carolina where residents already face some of the highest burdens in the country,” said Forest Bradley-Wright, Energy Efficiency Director at Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “Duke’s agreement to expand its low-income budget is a promising step to reduce the burden on ratepayers while providing energy efficient upgrades, ultimately saving all customers money in the long run.”

Under the settlement, stakeholders and community members will have more direct input into creating the grid that serves current and future South Carolina communities. Duke has also agreed to develop a demonstration project that prioritizes underserved communities and studies how clean energy can achieve both social and technical grid needs. 

“We’re pleased that the settlement includes provisions to collaborate with Duke on grid planning and to develop, with community input, an equity focused project that demonstrates the ability of clean energy technology to promote local resilience and reliability,” said Jake Duncan, Southeast Regulatory Director for Vote Solar. “Modern technology like solar, storage, and smart technology can simultaneously reduce customer bills and strengthen the grid. We are excited that Duke has committed to working with us to demonstrate this and incorporate this approach into Duke’s planning for the future.”

“Making affordable energy efficient upgrades more widely available will make a huge difference in the lives, and energy bills, of South Carolinians,” said SELC Staff Attorney Kate Mixson.  “We look forward to working with Duke to improve its grid planning and the accessibility of its energy efficiency programs and hope this agreement is just the beginning of more comprehensive support for customers who need relief on their bills the most.”

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