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North Carolina Regulators Approve Piedmont Conservation Plan

The North Carolina Utilities Commission on Monday approved conservation programs proposed by Piedmont Natural Gas. The utility will be allowed to recover up to $1.275 million in rates to fund three conservation programs.

Last December Piedmont filed for approval of three programs: a low-income energy efficiency program for residential customers, a commercial nonprofit energy efficiency program and an equipment rebate program.

Progress Energy Carolinas Inc. and Duke Energy Carolinas LLC both intervened in the case with concerns about the rebate program. Progress said that if Piedmont offered rebates to new customers, the combination of an incentive for installing a high-efficiency air conditioner and an incentive for installing a natural gas furnace would provide customers with a reason to chose a gas furnace over an electric heat pump. Duke expressed similar concerns.

To address the concerns, Piedmont later modified the rebate program to clarify that available rebates would not be used for new construction or to replace existing electric equipment.

Duke also raised concerns about cost-effectiveness tests used by Piedmont to determine the efficacy of its program. "Although the methodology of Piedmont's cost-effectiveness tests and implementation plans was questioned, no party specifically opposed the implementation of these programs," the commission said in its order. "The commission concludes that Piedmont's conservation programs, as revised, should be approved."

The commission recently approved a conservation program for gas utility PSNC Energy. Conservation programs have been proven to raise the level of satisfaction customers have with their utilities, according to J.D. Power and Associates (see Daily GPI, Sept. 29, 2008).

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