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Duke Energy Carolinas, a Duke Energy Corporation (DUK - Analyst Report) unit, has filed for an electric rate-hike request to the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC). The rate hikes will enable the company to recoup infrastructural investment made under its Save-a-Watt program and to recover costs incurred for other proposed energy efficiency programs.

The new rates, if approved by the NCUC, will increase the average monthly bill of a residential customer using 1,000 kilowatts-hours (kWh) of power in a month by 2.8% to $105.58. Similarly, average monthly bill of a non-residential customer will increase by .0387 cents per kWh. The new rate will be applicable for Duke Energy Carolinas’ customers in North Carolina and will become effective from Jan 1, 2014.

Duke Energy Carolinas rolled out an energy efficiency plan called Save-a-Watt program in 2007 and denoted electricity as “fifth fuel” with advanced nuclear, clean coal, natural gas and renewable energy. The main objective of this plan is to propose an innovative approach to manage growing electricity demand using new ways to save watts.

Utility providers frequently invest in infrastructural development for execution of new technologies related to electricity generation, transmission and distribution. All these ensure uninterrupted, smooth and hassle-free power supply to the end-users.

Over the last couple of years, Duke Energy has invested a substantial amount to replace its old-fashioned equipments and improve existing infrastructure. This is expected to improve efficiency, reduce fuel consumption and thereby, lower operating costs for the company.

The regulated utilities recover their invested funds through rate filing. A few days ago, another unit of Duke Energy, Progress Energy Carolinas received regulatory nod from North Carolina Public Staff to increase its base rates.

Duke Energy is a well managed and high-quality energy provider in high-growth areas. We believe improvement in future earnings of the company will come from its high quality electric services, continued investments in infrastructure and strong customer service.

Duke Energy Corporation currently has a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). Other stocks worth considering from the industry are Brookfield Infrastructure Partners L.P. (BIP - Snapshot Report), Pike Electric Corporation and Otter Tail Corporation (OTTR - Snapshot Report); all with a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

Charlotte, N.C.-based Duke Energy Corporation is a diversified energy company with a portfolio of domestic and international, natural gas and electric, regulated and unregulated businesses, which supply, deliver, and process energy for customers in North America and selected international markets.

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