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RALEIGH, NC (AP) — North Carolina utilities regulators are opening hearings into whether Duke Energy should be allowed to raise electricity rates by more than 7 percent.

The North Carolina Utilities Commission begins hearings Monday on Duke Energy’s request for a 7.2 percent rate increase.

The higher rates are expected to take effect in February if regulators agree.

The increase is less than half of Duke Energy’s original request of 15 percent on average across residential, industrial and
commercial customers.

The proposed rate increase cleared a major hurdle last week with the endorsement of the commission’s Public Staff, which represents consumers.

Duke has nearly 2 million customers in North Carolina.

The Charlotte company also is seeking a 15 percent average rate increase in South Carolina, which includes 17 percent more for residential customers.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

AP-NY-11-28-11 0901EST

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