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Hundreds protest proposed Duke Energy rate increase in Winston-Salem

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.--Hundreds of concerned customers gathered at the first of Duke Energy's Public Hearings in Winston-Salem Wednesday evening.

The power company is proposing a 5.1% rate increase which will add about $14.27 to customers' bills.

The group of protestors were gathered outside the Forsyth County Courthouse, doing whatever they could to get their message heard.

"I'm sick and tired of getting one of these flyers about every quarter asking for a rate increase," says Tom Lynch, an upset Duke customer.

The company says it needs to increase rates in order to create a new storm reserve account, upgrade security at power plants as well improve security.

"We are retiring older, less efficient power plants, some of which were built in the 1940's and we're replacing them with environmentally friendly, efficient clean coal and natural gas plants," said Lisa Parrish, a Duke Energy spokeswoman.

The next of the five public hearings will be held in Charlotte.

Ultimately, it's the Utilities Commission decision whether or not to approve the rate increase.

A decision is expected July 8, and if approved the rate increase will go into effect in the fall.