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Duke deal could lower power bills in eastern NC towns

Posted July 28

— A Duke Energy unit has agreed to buy out the North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency's interests in power plants formerly owned by Progress Energy for $1.2 billion, officials said Monday.

NCEMPA has partial ownership interests in several plants, including the Shearon Harris Nuclear Plant in Wake County, the Brunswick Nuclear Plant Units 1 and 2 in Brunswick County and the Mayo Plant Unit 1 and Roxboro Plant Unit 4, both in Person County.

Thirty-two municipalities belong to NCEMPA, including Apex, Wake Forest, Louisburg, Clayton, Smithfield, Rocky Mount and Wilson, and customers have complained for years about high electric rates because of they are still paying off debt incurred from building the power plants.

Officials said the sale, which still must be approved by state and federal regulators, could reduce NCEMPA's debt by 70 percent, which could then lead to lower power bills.

“That’s a significant decrease in our costs, and the savings would be directly passed along to NCEMPA members,” Graham Edwards, chief executive of ElectriCities, which manages NCEMPA, said in a statement.

The exact impact on rates for each community would be different, officials said, and would depend on factors such as each community’s share of the outstanding debt and the specific load characteristics and customer mix of the community.

"The board’s overarching goal is to strengthen public power’s future in North Carolina," John Craft, chairman of the NCEMPA Board of Commissioners and town manager of LaGrange, said in a statement. "Reducing NCEMPA’s debt and, therefore, reducing our overall costs will provide the opportunity for more competitive rates in the 32 member communities. Although we have a long road ahead of us with regulatory approvals, today is a good day for N.C. Public Power and eastern North Carolina.”

NCEMPA's stake in the power plants represents approximately 700 megawatts of generating capacity, officials said. The municipal distribution lines and other assets aren't part of the proposed buyout.

As part of the deal, Duke and NCEMPA entered into a 30-year wholesale power contract to continue meeting the needs of the 270,000 customers who get their electricity from the municipal power agency.

“This agreement provides positive benefits to Duke Energy Progress customers, including long-term fuel savings that help keep rates affordable,” Paul Newton, Duke's president for North Carolina, said in a statement. “We have been providing electric service to NCEMPA members for more than 100 years, and we look forward to beginning this new chapter in our ongoing commitment to the communities of eastern North Carolina.”

15 Comments

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  • itsnotmeiswear Jul 29, 9:12 a.m.

    Utility rates have been suppressing the local economies of ENC for decades. This could be the best thing that happened in this area for a very long time. While living by himself in a similar home, my father-in-law pays more than twice as much for electricity in Kinston than I do with a house full of teenage girls.

  • wufpaker Jul 29, 9:00 a.m.

    I'm seeing a lot of folks making Duke out to be the bad guy. In fact, the municipalities voluntarily decided to get into the power business and buy into power plants that (in hindsight) they didn't have the large customer base to spread that capital cost. Those huge capital costs are the primary reason for such large rates. Additionally, and even worse, some towns, such as New Bern, use their electric grid as a profit generator to subsidize town operating expenses, which makes their rates astronomical. Other towns, such as Apex, do an outstanding job of keeping their costs in line and have very competitive rates. Contrary to what one writer indicated, these higher municipality rates are not currently subsidizing Duke customers. We'll just wait and see how all this flushes out over the next couple of years, especially for the towns using electric rates to subsidize town spending. Sit back and enjoy the show. I'll buy the popcorn...

  • cdancyii Jul 29, 8:13 a.m.

    I remember when the Northeastern NC Committee on the Affairs of Black People which consisted of Carol Batchelor, Lewis Turner, Andre Knight, myself and a few others had a community meeting about the utilities at Truth Tabernacle back in 1999 or early 2000’s. This is when we found out about there was such a thing called ElectriCities. The fight began at that time to do something about the high utility rates. Andre Knight went on to become a Rocky Mount City Councilman and also began serving on NCEMPA Board North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency after former Rocky Mount City Councilwoman and former NCEMPA board member Angela Bryant moved on to become a House of Representative and now a current Senator. Knight played a strong role in challenging ElectriCities to do something about the high utilities in the 32 cities. Rocky Mount lead a lawsuit and a couple cities started out with them but eventually backed out. Rocky Mount Councilman and NCEMPA board member Andre Knight was respo

  • Ijaz Fahted Jul 29, 8:05 a.m.

    I've never seen a more laughable headline.

    Duke will lower rates, and Morgan Fairchild is my wife!

    Yeah, That's the ticket!

  • exudin Jul 28, 7:38 p.m.

    I am from Louisburg; our rates are higher than CP&L's [Duke]. It subsidizes customers on Duke. Hopefully, it will work and level rates. It has also been a most serious issue for new and existing businesses in any of the Electriciti member towns.

  • AliceBToklas Jul 28, 5:23 p.m.

    "the savings would be directly passed along to NCEMPA members"

    The proof will come later. Is there a way to bind them to this statement?

  • SouthernBornSouthernBred Jul 28, 3:16 p.m.

    The municipalities will see a lower rate not present Duke Progress customers! As an electric employee of one of these municipalities don't judge unless you have read the deal! As far as bills going up maybe it's your usage. I had Progress and my bill has stayed the same since the merger.

  • UNJUSTIFIED Jul 28, 2:55 p.m.

    Duke energy will NEVER lower your bills people....

  • maybetoolatedixon2 Jul 28, 2:12 p.m.

    If you like your insurance company, you can keep your insurance company. If you like your doctor you can keep your doctor.

  • MitziGaynor Jul 28, 1:50 p.m.

    Fat chance. I've never seen a monopoly give its customers the break. EVER...

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