Jim Warren

Jim Warren, Associated Press

North Carolina's highest court is taking up a case that could force new competition on the state's electricity monopolies.

The state Supreme Court on Tuesday will consider the Utilities Commission's decision to fine clean-energy advocacy group NC WARN for putting solar panels on a Greensboro church's rooftop and then charging it below-market rates for power.

The commission told NC WARN that it was producing electricity illegally and fined the group $60,000. The group said it was acting privately and appealed to the high court.

David Boraks/WFAE

A week after allowing Duke Energy a rate increase that includes charges for coal ash cleanup for about half its North Carolina consumers, state regulators on Monday began considering raising prices on an additional 2 million customers.

The state Utilities Commission opened a hearing on the company's request to charge an extra $539 million a year to customers of its Duke Energy Carolinas subsidiary in central and western North Carolina. That translates into a 14 percent increase for the typical residential customer's $104 monthly bill, a spokesman for the Charlotte company said.

State regulators wrapped up a two-day public hearing in Raleigh Tuesday afternoon on the proposed merger of Duke Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas. The two-day hearing included testimony from company leaders and a protest by merger opponents.

Executives including CEOs Lynn Good of Duke and Thomas Skains of Piedmont argued the $6.7 billion deal would create a stronger company and speed Duke's shift toward cleaner-burning natural gas.

 State regulators have delivered another blow to environmentalists trying to block a new power plant in Asheville.  The North Carolina Utilities Commission says two groups must post a $98 million bond before they can appeal.

That's nearly 10 times the amount regulators originally set for an appeal by environmental groups NC WARN and The Climate Times. The commission says the bond is needed to pay Duke Energy's costs if the project is delayed.

State regulators will hold a hearing June 17 to help determine whether environmentalists should have to pay a multimillion dollar appeal bond before they challenge approval of a Duke Energy power plant in Asheville.