Roy Cooper butts heads with Duke Energy

Making me wonder even more about where Paul Newby's shadowy PAC money came from:

The N.C. Supreme Court on Tuesday will hear Attorney General Roy Cooper’s claim that economic pain to customers wasn’t fully considered in Duke Energy Carolinas’ latest rate hike. Cooper is challenging a key factor in utility rates: Called the rate of return on equity, or ROE, it’s the profit margin utilities are allowed to earn on capital investments.

Highlighting another glaring contradiction between the faux-Libertarian John Locke Foundation and their supposed principles. The State guaranteeing profits for one corporation (especially during a recession) is the anti-thesis of a free market. They whine like puppies about the REPS, but don't make a squeak about this or CWIP (Construction Work in Progress), which allows utilities to charge us for power that isn't even being generated yet. Total ideological fail.

Cooper said the commission should have to analyze effects on consumers when setting returns on equity. He said that could influence future rate cases, including the one Progress Energy Carolinas is now seeking and the request Duke Carolinas expects to file early next year.

“If the Utilities Commission is required to analyze specifically the impact on consumers when considering the profit margin, then I think you will see lower rates long-term,” he said. “Double-digit profit margins ought to be outlawed when many consumers are struggling to keep the lights on.”

The Commission also needs to take a realistic look at (as I mentioned above) the natural impacts of a recession, particularly as they pertain to the energy sector. Production is down, ergo, energy use is down. And it's not just regional; the energy sector is suffering nationwide. When production picks up, energy use will pick up. Yes, it's as simple as that.

What you don't do during a recession is shift those critical consumer dollars away from the market and into a monopolistic public-private partnership. Not only will small businesses suffer the rate hike, they'll also suffer the lost commerce from fewer available consumer dollars.

And as far as this is concerned:

Duke said the analysis of “changing economic conditions” and their “impact upon consumers” that Cooper seeks does not appear in statutes on how rates are to be set.

I beg to differ. The Legislature's Declarations are quite specific:

To provide fair regulation of public utilities in the interest of the public;

To assure that resources necessary to meet future growth through the provision of adequate, reliable utility service include use of the entire spectrum of demand‑side options, including but not limited to conservation, load management and efficiency programs, as additional sources of energy supply and/or energy demand reductions. To that end, to require energy planning and fixing of rates in a manner to result in the least cost mix of generation and demand‑reduction measures which is achievable, including consideration of appropriate rewards to utilities for efficiency and conservation which decrease utility bills;

To assure that facilities necessary to meet future growth can be financed by the utilities operating in this State on terms which are reasonable and fair to both the customers and existing investors of such utilities

Bolding mine. The reason these declarations preface all the details of rate-making and otherwise regulating of utilities is simple: The Legislature wanted to make it clear that the public has an equal (if not primary) stake in the process. For Duke Energy's lawyers to expound that consumer impact is missing from the Statute is a prime example of the deception and hubris they employ in their dealings with regulators.

Take a good look at that statute to which I linked. With a GOP supermajority in the General Assembly and a Duke Energy puppet in the Governor's mansion, those arrogant lawyers have just been handed their own quill pen to strike us all out of the laws that have been protecting us.