Duke Rate Hike

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) _ Duke Energy Carolinas has agreed to increase the power bills of its South Carolina customers by about 6 percent overall, or less than half of what the utility wanted. Duke Energy worked out a settlement Wednesday with the Office of Regulatory Staff, which represents the public in utility issues. If the Public Service Commission approves the agreement, increases will take effect in February. A hearing starts Dec. 7. Regulatory Staff director Dukes Scott says the utility initially requested a 15 percent hike. The utility agreed not to raise rates again for general purposes until 2015, though it can get additional money for construction projects. Residential rates would increase 7.1 percent, and commercial rates would increase 5.2 percent. The utility agreed to donate $4 million for workforce training and low-income assistance.

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