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Duke Energy Carolinas seeks $160M in storm-related cost recovery

Duke Energy Carolinas LLC is asking North Carolina regulators to approve future recovery of about $160 million for costs incurred tied to three storms in its service territory.

The Duke Energy Corp. subsidiary in a Dec. 21 petition filed with the North Carolina Utilities Commission requested approval to establish a regulatory asset and defer costs related to Hurricane Florence, Hurricane Michael and a winter storm earlier in December. Specifically, Duke Energy Carolinas, or DEC, seeks to defer until its next general rate case about $142 million for the incremental operations and maintenance, or O&M, expenses and about $18 million in capital investments.

DEC said it plans to file a general rate case in 2019. The utility asked to spread recovery of the storm costs over an eight-year period that would begin once the new rates are approved. The commission has typically approved recovery of storm costs over a five-year period, but DEC asked for the longer period because of the magnitude of the request.

DEC also requested a return on its deferred balance and capital investments.

Hurricane Florence made landfall Sept. 14 as a Category 1 hurricane near Wrightsville Beach, N.C., leaving 2 million customers without power while flooding power plant sites and ash basins. DEC told regulators it "experienced extraordinary damage to both the transmission and distribution systems." The utility said its total "system-wide incremental costs for Hurricane Florence" amounted to about $53 million of O&M expenses and $5 million in capital investments. In North Carolina, incremental costs were $37 million of O&M expenses and $4 million in capital investments.

Hurricane Michael made landfall Oct. 10 as a Category 4 storm just northwest of Mexico Beach, Fla., before heading north into the Carolinas. "DEC incurred extraordinary incremental expenses in connection with the restoration and rebuilding efforts caused by Hurricane Michael," the utility wrote. DEC said its total incremental costs for Hurricane Michael reached about $60 million of O&M expenses and $12 million in capital investments, with $53 million of O&M expenses and $11 million of capital investments in North Carolina.

The winter storm, labeled by commercial weather service providers as Winter Storm Diego, hit the Carolinas in early December with a mix of snow, ice and freezing rain that caused "widespread damage and outages," DEC said. The utility estimated its total incremental costs at about $70 million of O&M expenses and $4 million in capital investments, with $51 million in O&M expenses and $3 million in capital investments in North Carolina. (NCUC docket No. E-7, Sub 1187)