The demonstrations against corporate excess, which have taken place nationwide with greater frequency in recent weeks, arrived in the city because of a hearing at High Point City Hall over a proposed Duke Energy Corp. electric rate hike. About 150 people, many of them with the Occupy Greensboro and Occupy Winston-Salem groups, packed the High Point City Council chambers to protest the request that could lead to a 17 percent rate hike for Triad Duke customers.
The hearing was one of a series taking place across the state on the request. Duke filed a request with the North Carolina Utilities Commission to increase electric rates by approximately $646 million. The utility argues it needs the increase to recoup capital costs, such as spending $4.8 billion since 2009 on modernizing its power system and complying with environmental regulations. If approved, new rates for Duke customers would take effect in February.
Even before the protest by the Occupy demonstrators Thursday, Duke faced vigorous opposition from consumer groups over the rate hike proposal. The commission should make a decision in January on the request.
Demonstrators against the proposal showed up more than a half an hour before the hearing. Todd Warren with Occupy Greensboro, in an interview with The High Point Enterprise before the hearing, echoed many of the sentiments expressed by opponents.
"Here we are in one of the worst recessions in memory, and you have a company I think of as a monopoly talking about a rate increase. It amounts to a regressive tax on the poor. It just seems outrageous when folks are struggling to keep a job," Warren said.