Duke Energy's DUK business subsidiary, Piedmont Natural Gas, recently requested a filing with the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC) to approve a 10.4% overall rate hike, which will likely be implemented in November 2021.
A Detailed Note on the Filing Request
The filing was made primarily to recover approximately $1.7 billion in capital investments for expansion and accommodating growth in its communities, infrastructure to decrease price volatility for its customers and to make federally-required safety improvements to its system. If approved by the regulators in North Carolina, a residential customer’s average monthly bill would almost escalate by $8 per month or $95 per year.
Construction of a new natural gas storage facility in Robeson County, NC, and enhancements to an existing storage facility in Huntersville, NC, represent major capital investments that Piedmont included in its request to the NCUC.
Piedmont Natural Gas’ major capital investments in its recent request to the NCUC include the construction of a $250-million liquified natural gas (LNG) storage facility in Robeson County. This will enable the company to store up to 1 billion cubic feet of LNG. It also includes a $60-million enhancement to an existing LNG storage facility in Huntersville. The company also announced the expansion of energy efficiency programs, alongside providing effective and improved customer assistance.
Interestingly, in a separate filing request, Piedmont Natural Gas has proposed to offer three new energy efficiency programs in North Carolina.
Consistent Growth for Duke Energy's Piedmont Natural Gas
Piedmont Natural Gas' customer base in North Carolina has increased by more than 42,000 customers since January 2018, as the subsidiary serves six of the 10 most populated cities in the state. Evidently, the company strongly emphasizes on strengthening and improving its systems to accommodate new customers and continue providing reliable natural gas services to existing customers in this state.
Duke Energy’s Long-Term Plans
We applaud Duke Energy’s long-standing efforts to expand its scale of operations and implement modern technologies at the utility’s facilities, by investing heavily in infrastructure and expansion projects. The company has a robust five-year capital plan and currently intends to invest $5.68 billion in its Gas Utilities & Infrastructure growth projects during the 2021-2025 time period. This investment plan will bolster earnings base growth in the company’s gas businesses by approximately 10%, over the next five years.
We believe that the latest rate hike proposal filed by the company will enable it to duly achieve the aforementioned targets.
Utilities & Rate Hikes
Utilities follow a systematic strategy of rate hikes, which has historically boosted their results.
Recently, in March, Dominion Energy D revealed its plans of seeking its first natural gas rate hike since 2016 and expects to file the details by Apr 1, 2021. If approved, this should definitely boost Dominion’s operational results in the coming days.
On Mar 1, 2021, CMS Energy's CMS subsidiary, Consumers Energy, filed a request for a $225-million application with the Michigan Public Service Commission seeking an increase in its electric generation and distribution rates based on a test year ending December 2022.
Similarly, rate cases completed in 2020 increased Essential Utilities’ WTRG top line by $21 million on an annual basis, while cases completed in 2021 are expected to increase annual revenues by $8.5 million.
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