FLORENCE, SC (WBTW) – Several Pee Dee farmers and residents are upset with Duke Energy’s proposed 12.5 percent residential rate increase.
Dozens of farmers and other residents opposed the proposed rate increases during a public hearing held by the state’s public service commission at the Florence County Complex on Monday night.
Those against the rate hikes say they’re unfair.
“Our light bills are from $300 to over $500,” said Ruthie Tarlton of Cheraw. “We cannot afford this.”
Duke Energy Progress is also trying to raise its monthly basic facilities charge. If approved, SGS Constant Load customers would pay $11.31 more, residential customers would pay $11.78 more and SGS customers would pay $12.34 more.
Several Pee Dee farmers told the PSC how rate hikes would hurt their businesses.
“This directly affects my bottom line,” said Anthony Ward, who’s the president of the Florence County Farm Bureau. “I cannot recoup any costs. None, none. My soybean prices aren’t going up. My input costs are going up.”
State agriculture commissioner Hugh Weathers also spoke in support of the farmers.
“This rate change will have an exorbitant impact, based on the way that a lot of the farmers are set up with their electricity usage,” Weathers said.
Duke Energy says the increase to the basic facilities charge would help fund necessary projects for delivering electricity and more.
“This proposal really addresses things related to generation over the years, the safe, efficient disposal of coal ash,” said Duke Energy spokesperson Ryan Mosier. “It also deals with customer systems that we’re building to provide better service to our customers.”
This comes the same day North Carolina ordered Duke Energy to remove all coal ash in that state.
South Carolina regulators say Pee Dee residents shouldn’t fund out-of-state projects.
“We don’t believe that South Carolina customers should pay for something that they didn’t get a chance to vote on,” said Nanette Edwards, who’s executive director of the state Office of Regulatory Staff.
Another public hearing will be held in Sumter on Tuesday. The PSC will also hold a hearing with Duke Energy Progress on April 11 in Columbia before making a final decision, which the company expects by early May.
The rate increases would start in June if they’re approved.