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Business group withdraws challenge to Duke Energy low-income assistance program

Duke Energy headquarters in Charlotte.
David Boraks
Duke Energy headquarters in Charlotte.

A group of Duke Energy business customers has withdrawn its challenge to a low-income customer assistance program that requires them to contribute $1.70 a month per account.

That came as part of an agreement filed Thursday between Duke, consumer advocates and the Carolina Industrial Group for Fair Utility Rates, which represents some large businesses. CIGFUR had asked the North Carolina Utilities Commission to halt the program temporarily while it appeals to the state Supreme Court.

In Thursday's deal, Duke agreed not to propose any future changes that would shift from the flat monthly charge to a fee based on usage, which would cost business customers more.

The agreement means the program can begin in January, when eligible low-income customers can get $42 a month off their bills, to help with rising electricity costs.

State regulators approved the three-year pilot program this summer as part of a three-year, 11% rate hike that took effect Oct. 1 for Duke Energy Progress customers in Asheville, Raleigh and eastern North Carolina.

A similar bill assistance program for customers of Duke Energy Carolinas in central and western North Carolina is awaiting approval.

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David Boraks previously covered climate change and the environment for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.