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Going clean means more 'green' — for electric companies

Queen Greene recently spoke at a public hearing in opposition to a proposed monthly rate increase. (Kate Medley/The Assembly)

By Kristi E. Swartz for The Assembly

Queen Greene sent her newborn son to live with his godparents last winter. She planned to set the thermostat of her three-bedroom North Carolina home at a chilly 60 degrees to keep her electricity bill low. Greene figured that would be too cold for a baby.

Greene had moved to rural Roxboro, about 30 miles south of the Virginia border, from Durham to save money. She wound up losing her work-from-home job due to poor internet service, forcing her to commute 45 minutes back to Durham, where she made between $11 and $15 an hour.

After paying rent for the house and other expenses, that left her about $250 a month for everything else, including roughly $110 a month she was paying Duke Energy.

“I still have to pay lights, food, gas for the car, car insurance,” Greene told North Carolina utility regulators at a March public hearing for a proposed monthly rate increase for one of Duke’s electric companies. Duke was asking for a rate hike that would have boosted bills an average of about $25 a month—or an additional $300 a year—by 2025.

Greene said she went to the hearing not for herself but to speak for others like her.

“I was nervous, but I was like, ‘No, I have to speak up and say something because if I don’t, who will?’” Greene said in an interview with Floodlight in late November. “The people who spoke saying they agree with the rate hike—they don’t have the same issues as me, they’ve got good jobs and stuff.”

The North Carolina Utilities Commission eventually signed off on a lesser amount—one that steps up to a roughly $18-a-month increase over three years. That increase started showing up on customer bills Oct. 1. Duke’s current electricity rates will more than double before the end of the decade, said Dustin Metz, a utilities engineer at the North Carolina Utilities Commission, at a recent hearing.

A separate three-year increase for another Duke-owned electric utility in North Carolina remains on the table.

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