CHARLOTTE – State regulators’ approval of a nearly 15% increase in Duke Energy rates over the next three years will lead to hardship for some North Carolina manufacturers, the leader of an industry trade association says.

“We will see plant closures and job losses and operational shifts as an effect of this,” says Kevin Martin, executive director of the Carolina Utility Customers Association, which represents manufacturers operation in the two states. “I’m absolutely certain.”

Under the 279-page order, rates will rise 8.3% started Jan, 15, then 3.3% in 2025; and 3% in 2026. Duke will provide details in January on how the order will affect customers’ bills. It covers Duke Energy’s service area from Durham to Charlotte. A rate hike for Duke Energy customers in eastern North Carolina and the Asheville area was approved in August, raising rates by 11.3% over three years.

Utilities Commission Chair Charlotte Mitchell declined to comment on Martin’s viewpoint.

Duke Energy spokesman Bill Norton responded, “North Carolina continues to attract jobs and investment at a record pace, strongly supported by energy rates that will remain considerably below the national average even after this adjustment. We remain committed to providing the reliable, affordable and increasingly clean energy that our customers are asking for.”

In a statement this week, Gov. Roy Cooper highlighted the more than 14,000 new jobs and billions in corporate investment that were announced in the past year in North Carolina.

But Martin notes that N.C. manufacturing employment has declined by more than 5,000 jobs over the past year. He agrees with N.C. Utilities Commissioner Jeffrey Hughes, who in a dissent to the order argued that the approved 10.1% return on equity was too high. The current allowable return is 9.6%.

For more details, read the full story at Business North Carolina.