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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) – Dozens came out to voice their opinions as the state utility commission held a meeting to hear from people about a possible rate hike from Duke Energy.

Those against it call it a slap in the face to customers and those for it say it will help Duke Energy reach cleaner energy goals.

“We paid for that electricity, they took the money from us and they did not use it well,” says Alina Szmant who is a professor as well as customer of the utility.

The utility has not announced a rate hike since 2013. Some neighbors said they understand a hike may be needed but this current rate was too much.

“These rate hikes will have a disproportionate on low income and fixed income families. And especially upon our senior citizens,” says Mallam Maynard with the Financial Law Center in Wilmington.

The rate hikes would be nearly 17% (16.7) for some customers leading to fixed rates going from more than eleven dollars to nearly $20 ($18.70) when you cut on the lights.

“We all use energy and we know that it’s an important part in all of our lives and certainly we never take an increase lightly when we propose such,” says Jeff Brooks with Duke Energy.

Brooks says the rate hike is meant to cover costs of coal ash dump clean ups and move in the direction of having cleaner energy, eventually phasing out older plants.

“These are important investments that are being made,” he adds.

It’s been four years since the utility proposed rate hike. Since then there was hurricane Matthew, also the $100 million fallout in a federal case of the company’s coal ash spill – as well as a loss the company reported in selling an international business.

“My suggestion is that Duke withdraw it’s application for a rate increase and seek the necessary funds in the investment sector,” says customer Peter Bryan.

The utility commission will hold more hearings into November and make a recommendation on the rate hike early 2018.

“Dukes does such a good job getting my electricity back on when we have storms and everything, but a 16 percent rate increase,” says a Duke Energy customer at the Thursday night meeting.

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