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Rocky Mount residents struggle with high electric bills

Posted March 17, 2011
Updated October 23, 2011

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Almost 200 Rocky Mount residents voiced their frustration with high utility bills at a public forum on Thursday night.

Curtis and Lachunga Wilson said they have seen their power bill double to more than $500 a month.

"We manage and find a way to pay this utility bill, but it's breathtaking," Lachunga Wilson said. 

Residents like the Wilsons might not see relief from high power bills anytime soon.

Rocky Mount is one of 32 municipalities that belong to ElectriCities. In the early 1980s, that consortium agreed to help pay for power plants, such as Shearon Harris in Wake County, in exchange for using electricity generated by the plants.

The move left the cities and towns with $2.4 billion in debt as the cost of building nuclear plants skyrocketed. Customers of the local utilities have been slowly paying off the debt through higher electric bills.

Rocky Mount’s portion of that contract is $400 million, which amounts to a $5 to $7 million monthly bill. The cost of covering the debt is then passed on to consumers.

The debt will remain on the municipalities' books until 2026, leaving them little flexibility over electric rates until then. Some officials, though, say they plan to lobby state regulators and lawmakers to include debt relief as a condition of approving the $26 billion merger between Raleigh-based Progress Energy and Charlotte-based Duke Energy.

Rocky Mount residents deal with high electric bills Rocky Mount residents deal with high electric bills

Graham Edwards, a spokesman for ElectriCities, said the utility has tried to keep the cost down by not raising rates the past couple years.

“What I would encourage consumers to do is look at their consumption, understand how they can use energy more efficiently and more effectively,” he said.

Residents, including the Wilson family, said they face more tough choices in the future.

“Sometimes you don’t know whether to pay the utility bill or buy groceries to feed your family,” Lachunga Wilson said.

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  • wa4dou Mar 21, 2011

    I once lived in a duplex in Rocky Mount. My last bill was the highest I received while living there, $75.00. The folks who moved in behind me had a $200.00 electric bill their first month. There appears to be much more at work here than just "outrageous rates".

  • whatelseisnew Mar 18, 2011

    "The debt will remain on the municipalities' books until 2026, leaving them little flexibility over electric rates until then. Some officials, though, say they plan to lobby state regulators and lawmakers to include debt relief as a condition of approving the $26 billion merger between Raleigh-based Progress Energy and Charlotte-based Duke Energy."

    Typical, make an agreement, don't like the results, whine to get out of paying the contract. Just more of the same old I am not responsible for my decision mindset so prevalent in America. Maybe Obama will come up with a bailout.

  • teacher101 Mar 18, 2011

    I sent letters - to everyone (council, governor, senators, utilities people in the city, etc) a couple years back when my bill was over $300 and I wasn't even in my house for 10 days and asked how it could be that high when I wasn't there? Not one person could explain to me why and I refused to pay the bill for about 3 months because no one could give me an answer, besides I couldn't pay it. I also asked why we weren't given choices as to who we get our electricity from, so that competition would give us lower rates. This was what was told to me, "that would be impossible". Um, no, it's not impossible, it can happen, you just choose not too because you want the extra $500 in your pocket instead of ours because in reality, the price should be between $50-$150, not over $300 and more, so, someone is pocketing something, which is why the so-called debt is not getting paid.

  • ncguy Mar 18, 2011

    Time to renegotiate

  • tamiya_stars Mar 18, 2011

    Yea, I lived in Greenville for a while and my apartment that was all of 500 square foot used to be $250 a month to cool in the summertime. The rates were literally more than double what they are for Progress Energy or Duke customers. It is very common for a average size house to have a $500 bill down east in NC.

  • what the........ Mar 18, 2011

    Excellent reason right here to NEVER move to RM or Wilson!!

  • voiceofreason32 Mar 18, 2011

    I lived in Rocky Mount and paid up to $400 to heat a 1200 sq ft townhome....now I live in the country...Progress Energy...My highest bill has been $250 (cold, cold winter) for a 2000 sq ft home....most of the time it runs a little over a hundred....rocky mount finds a way to rip you off in every way...trust me, someone somewhere is getting a kickback

  • wa4dou Mar 18, 2011

    Here is but 1 example of how to save energy (read that - "consume less"). In this climate zone, experts recommend that the insulation above your ceiling, in the attic, meet R-49-R65. The average attic insulation is 6-9" of blown in insulation, meeting an R-9-R19 spec. At that R factor, winter heat is excaping and summer heat is invading your home. Attic insulation is cheap and if you purchase and do it yourself, you can save enough to pay for it in 12-36 months. After paid for, it continues to save you money continuously, thereafter.

  • sabol100 Mar 18, 2011

    I have to weigh in...my bills are not as high as most, but I conserve and still have to pay more than it should be. I rarely run the heat in winter and would say I use the ac more than heat during the year.. My summer bills are lower than my winter, but I use more energy in the summer. I don't leave lights on (if they are on it is in the room I am in). I am very proactive in conserving, but am unhappy with the $100 increase I face in winter...however, we must pay the bill in the end or do without. I chose to conserve as much as possible and pay what is due.

  • CWILLIAMS1639 Mar 18, 2011

    What happened to monoploies being illegal?

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