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Will Duke-Progress Energy Merger Mean More Rate Hikes?

June 12, 2012

RALEIGH, N.C. - Cooling North Carolina homes is expected to cost more this summer, thanks to predicted record heat and recent rate hikes from the state's largest power providers.

The announcement late last week about the approved merger of Duke and Progress Energy has consumer advocates concerned about the possibility of more rate hikes.

The added cost would be hard to many to afford, particularly seniors and others on fixed incomes, says the AARP North Carolina Associate State Director for Community Outreach, Greg Tanner.

"They find themselves being caught in the middle, having to split paying utility bills compared to maybe paying prescription drug coverage, or buying groceries."

Tanner says simple things like unplugging appliances when not in use and shutting off unnecessary lights can lead to big savings. Switching to high-efficiency light bulbs and saving on air conditioning by setting thermostats a few degrees higher can also help. Even washing clothes in cold water can result in savings on power bills.

It isn't just a matter of being able to pay for cooling their homes, adds Tanner. Some older people can't afford measures that would make their homes more energy-efficient, and don't have the expertise to perform tasks like adding insulation or resealing windows. He says that's where family and friends can step in to help.

"Not only is it cost-cutting savings, it potentially prevents an injury from happening to that individual; but also, for the younger person, it feels good to walk away knowing you helped someone."

AARP has information online on energy assistance programs for lower-income people, at aarp.org.

The North Carolina Department of Social Services' Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program can be reached at 919-733-3058.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - NC