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Duke Energy will lower electric bills this fall, but legal challenge could raise them again

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Duke Energy will lower customers’ electric bills this coming fall based on fuel costs. Meanwhile, a separate legal challenge that would raise bills is making its way through the court system.

The Upstate’s chief energy provider that serves more than 600,000 customers announced Friday that the typical residential customer’s monthly bill would drop beginning in October by $6.81, a 5 percent decrease.

The reason: The cost of the fuel necessary to provide power turned out to be lower than projected over the course of the year, so the lower rate is essentially a refund of money collected from customers based on the company’s best estimates, a “true-up” correction up or down that occurs every year.

Duke Energy

South Carolina’s utility regulators slashed a planned rate hike for Duke Energy’s electric customers in the Upstate, calling the company “tone deaf” and chastising it for its “excessively high” executive compensation. Provided

Meanwhile, Duke’s challenge to state regulators’ decision last summer to cut how much the company wanted to raise rates on customers remains before the South Carolina Supreme Court a year later – with no sign of being resolved anytime soon.

“There is no timeline, but we don’t expect the court case to be resolved in the near future,” Duke spokesman Ryan Mosier told The Post and Courier on Friday.

The news comes as Dominion Energy CEO Tom Farrell hinted Friday that the company would ask the S.C. Public Service Commission to raise rates somewhere between 1 and 9 percent on customers in South Carolina’s other large utility, formerly known as SCE&G.

Dominion bought SCE&G last year to rescue the company from the multibillion-dollar fiasco that was the failed construction of two reactors at the V.C. Summer nuclear plant in Fairfield County. In the wake of that project, the commission last summer clamped down on the amount utilities such as Duke could raise rates to pass on costs that included abandoned projects and environmental cleanups.

In its original proposal, Duke planned to raise rates an average of $14 monthly for a typical residential customer. The commission, amid fervent public backlash over the proposed increases, slashed the amount Duke intended to recover by about half. After the decision, Duke last June raised rates by $4.71 instead. The company said at the time it was an effort to provide cleaner and safer energy.

It’s unclear how much rates could increase if Duke is successful in its appeal.

Mosier said Duke had “no choice but to file the appeal.”

“Filing an appeal with the South Carolina Supreme Court was simply the next step in the process as we seek to recover appropriate investments made for the benefit of our customers,” he said.

Andrew Brown contributed to this report.

Follow Eric on Twitter at @cericconnor.

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