Your layman's point of view is not wanted:
Speakers will have to be sworn in. Although that’s not unheard of at some local-government meetings in which a commission, board or council must vote to open a quasi-judicial proceeding, the implications of it for the Utilities Commission hearing could be different. Testimony under oath is expected to be truthful. Unlike many local boards, testimony to the utility commission would be subject to cross-examination. A person who testified about anything other than their own opinions should be prepared to have their factual claims challenged during cross-examination.
Being placed under oath begs the question of consequences for untruthful testimony. While there’s no precedent for charging someone with offering false testimony at a hearing of this type, in theory someone who swore to tell the truth and then knowingly bore false witness could face prosecution for perjury.
While I understand the need for quasi-judicial proceedings in many cases, the Utilities Commission should not be so insulated. They allow only one voice (Executive Director of the Public Staff) to represent the people, and that representation is already filtered and edited by the time it reaches the ears of the NCUC. They're operating in a safe little bubble, and that is not conducive to public service. And that public deserves the right to speak, without the aura of legal consequences if some of their words can be disputed as "false testimony."