BY JOHN H. WALKER
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
Four public hearings have been scheduled around the state to receive public testimony in connection with a request by Piedmont Natural Gas Co. to increase and revise the rates it charges customers.
Charlotte-based Piedmont on May 31 asked state regulators for permission to increase its customer rates 10.5 percent a year, which would raise typical residential bills about $6 a month.
The filing is Piedmont’s first rate case since 2008. Two hearings are scheduled on Thursday, Aug. 29 — at 2 p.m. at the High Point Courthouse and at 7 p.m. in Courtroom 5310 of the Mecklenburg County Courthouse in Charlotte. The third hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 5 in Courtroom 100 of the New Hanover Courthouse in Wilmington with the final hearing scheduled for 1 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 14 in Commission Hearing Room 2115 of the Dobbs Building, 439 N. Salisbury St., Raleigh.
Piedmont is requesting authority to increase its rates and charges by an average of 9.32 percent, which would generate an additional $79,823,158 in revenue.
Under the application, eight areas of service, including residential, would increase by 10.5 percent. Also increasing by 10.5 percent would be small commercial and medium commercial consumers .
Residential customers would generate about 58 percent of the additional revenue, or slightly more than $46 million.
According to the filing, residential customers would see average bills rise from $715.56 to $807.84 a year, or $7.69 more a month based on an average usage of 19 therms per month. A therm in a non-SI unit of heat energy equal to 100,000 BTU. The new rates would take effect Jan. 1.
The drilling process known as fracking, which has proven to be controversial in North Carolina, has made extensive deposits of natural gas available in the United States and, as a result, gas prices have dropped dramatically.
For example, a typical Piedmont residential customer paid $955 a year in 2008.
By next month, Piedmont expects to have spent $1.2 billion on capital projects since the 2008 rate case. Those costs were divided between the costs of new projects to supply gas to Duke Energy power plants, which will help increase Piedmont’s revenues, and meeting pipeline-safety standards.
Piedmont has about 1 million total customers in the Carolinas and Tennessee.