Mayor Saffo testifies, calls proposed Duke Energy increase a ‘rate shock’


WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo provided testimony to the NC Utilities Commission about the proposed Duke Energy Progress rate increase.

Duke has proposed a 16.7 percent increase for residential costumers, asking it to go into effect on January 1.

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According to the City of Wilmington, Saffo is the only mayor requested by the NC League of Municipalities to submit formal testimony to the Utilities Commission.

City staff estimate that proposed rate increases would likely cost Wilmington’s local government an additional $400,000 each year.

In his testimony, Saffo says as mayor of the eight largest city in North Carolina, he will discuss  ‘the pressures on – some would say pending crisis of – municipal budget,  our municipal operations use electricity, our efforts to conserve electricity usage, and the challenges created by the proposed significant increase in electric rates by Duke Energy Progress on city budgets.’

Saffo also says the rate increase has the potential for “rate shock” among all customer and that the Commission should analyze the expenses Duke Energy Progress seeks to pass on to customers, especially the expenses related to the closure of coal ash basins.

Saffo also included a budget for fiscal year 2018, which does not include any rate increase. The city budgeted $2,423,959 for electricity service, which covers streetlights, street signals, public buildings, golf facilities and parking facilities.

He also included the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority’s budget of $2,637,205 for electric service for water treatment and transmission and wastewater collection and treatment, for a total of about $5.2 million a year.

Saffo says the proposed rate increase would increase the city’s expenses by almost $200,000 and the CFPUA’s by about $465,00, for a total of $665,000 in additional costs that city residents will be responsible for.

Saffo testified that if the incrased costs are passed along to taxpayers, ‘the same people have to pay for the increased rates not one — but twice– through the higher bills for their own electricity usage billed directly to them, and also for the increased costs of the municipality usage, passed on indirectly through taxes.’

Saffo ended his testimony by saying he welcomes continued discussions with Duke Energy progress to find mutually acceptable and workable solutions for both.

Click here to read Mayor Saffo’s full testimony..

The NC Utility Commission will hold more public hearings into November and make a recommendation on the rate hike in early 2018.