Duke Energy: It’s time to set the record straight on NC Senate Bill 559

Several special interest groups continue to intentionally mislead the public about important energy legislation under consideration in the North Carolina General Assembly — Senate Bill 559 — and I’d like to set the record straight for the benefit of the communities we serve.

I’m confident this misinformation campaign has nothing to do with sound policy for North Carolinians, and everything to do with the fact that Duke Energy is backing it. Unfortunately, the noise surrounding this bipartisan legislation is drowning out the truth, which is a real disservice to our state.

The truth is, all SB 559 does is provide the North Carolina Utilities Commission new tools to use at their discretion to regulate rates and ensure everyone pays the lowest possible price for reliable energy. An important benefit of the legislation that these groups don’t talk about is how the use of a securitization plan, one of the potential new tools, can save customers an estimated 15-20% on storm recovery costs. As storm threats continue to grow and become more expensive in our state, having this tool in place would offer better price protection for customers going forward.

The tools outlined in SB 559 will help the commission — a regulatory body of appointed commissioners who, along with their knowledgeable staff, are experts in ratemaking — do their job more efficiently and effectively. This legislation is about giving the commission the authority to explore whether these new ratemaking tools would be in the best interest of customers. If not, they don’t have to use them. It’s as simple as that.

Nothing in this bill raises rates and nothing in this bill alters the commission’s ongoing oversight of Duke Energy or any other utility’s rates or service. The commission will continue to scrutinize all the utility’s costs, and then select the best approach for establishing fair rates, which includes public hearings. Under today’s laws, and under this legislation, a utility is never guaranteed a profit but instead is provided an opportunity to earn a fair and reasonable return that must be approved by the commission.

In no way does this legislation allow the company to pass through its grid improvement costs and other projects, like coal ash management, automatically to customers. As with current law, the commission would continue to determine what costs are fair and reasonable to share with customers.

We’ve been extremely transparent that our company needs to pivot to a higher level of grid spending, and we need an effective way to recover that spending. The commission already determined the grid improvement work is important for our state and customers, and we’ve worked extensively with stakeholders over the last year, including those spreading misinformation about SB 559, to revise the original 10-year, $13 billion plan into a three-year initial phase estimated at $1.7 billion to $2.5 billion.

It’s time to get the facts right on SB 559, sound policy for North Carolinians.

Stephen De May is Duke Energy’s North Carolina president.