Power Struggle Part 3: ElectriCities Rates Exceed The National Average, Legislation Targets The Power Agency

If you're a customer of one of the 32 municipalities that make up the North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency managed by ElectriCities, you pay more than Progress or Duke customers for the exact same thing.

The rates the nearly 270,000 ElectriCities customers pay averages 13.6 cents per kilowatt hour, compared to 9.6 cents for Progress, 8.2 cents for Duke, and 11.1 cents for the non-profit Tideland Electric Membership Corporation, which refunded $682,000 to its 22,000 customers last year. Jones/Onslow EMC, with a rate of 10 cents, did the same thing, returning three million dollars in credits or refunds to customers. In fact, the rates ElectriCities customers pay are even higher than the national average of 11.3 cents per kilowatt hour.

Studying the rates ElectriCities members pay is the aim of NC House Bill 559. It calls for a commission to examine rates, services, and any issues that affect rates. The commission also would have the power to subpoena witnesses.

Asked about H.B 559, ElectriCities CEO Graham Edwards said, "Ya know the legislature can study rates in any way, shape or form they like. And we will be there to help them and support them anyway we can."

If the bill passes, one thing the commission will learn is that the 32 municipalities set their own rates, which is why they can vary from town to town. They'll also discover those municipalities can transfer money from their electric fund to their general fund to cover expenses that are not related to the operation of electric services. A separate bill, House Bill 117, would put an end to that practice.

New Bern Mayor Lee Bettis says New Bern and other towns that currently transfer money from the electric fund to the general fund need to stop, but says ending it this summer, as the bill suggests, would result in severe tax increases.

Another bill, House Bill 457, would bring the ElectriCities municipalities under the oversight of the North Carolina Utilities Commission. Right now, as we reported last week, there is no independent oversight.

ElectriCities opposes H.B bill 457, saying "It won't lower rates, but will instead increase a city's costs to operate its electric system, which would contribute to even higher bills."

The legislation in Raleigh is in addition to efforts we have reported on by Betttis to try and intervene in the Progress/Duke merger to find some relief.

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  • by Dumbo Location: Looktheotherwayville on May 16, 2011 at 08:09 AM
    REPLY TO: Anonymous on May 12 Don't know your City but Greenville residents need to consider the TOTAL LACK OF CONCERN, INTEREST OR PARTICIPATION in this CRISIS its' Mayor and City Council has exhibited towards citizens in need when IT'S TIME TO VOTE. May get more of the same but may as well VOTE OUT the OBVIOUSLY rotten ones who could care less about your needs. Already know where they stand. Not in your corner.
  • by Bill Location: Greenville on May 15, 2011 at 03:35 AM
    Electicities' rates are higher because all the cities and towns in this arrangement agreed to share the debt serice on a huge bond issue sold to finance nuclear power plants. I believe these bonds are backed by the state, making this potentially perhaps the state's largest single debt. There is nothing the legislature can do about this at present, except home that all the participating cities continue to cover the debt service.
  • by Dumbo Location: Look the other way ville on May 12, 2011 at 08:34 AM
    It would be explanatory to see in black and white the dollar amt. of debt EACH city ,within ElectrCities, had at the INCEPTION of their debt compared to their CURRENT dollar amt. of debt. If different amts., proportionate to whole amt of their debt, why or how so. Seen dollar amts currently owed. A list showing INCEPTION & CURRENT debt would be nice. IF it rises what does that tell us. KEEP ON DANCING.
  • by Dumbo Location: Greenville on May 12, 2011 at 06:16 AM
    ELECTRICITIES please explain specifically HOW H.B. Bill 457 will increase vs lower a city's costs to operate its electric system. H.B. 117 is a must it should ALREADY be law.
  • by emperor'snewclothes Location: Greenville on May 12, 2011 at 05:55 AM
    BRIAN of Southport Are you paying any of these bills ?????? Those who pay say. Go fishing.
  • by Brian Location: Southport on May 12, 2011 at 05:13 AM
    What amazing is none of this is new. These series of stories could have been done 20 years ago (and were). The simple fact is, these towns made a bad deal. Now they have to pay for it. It has nothing to do with corruption, "fat cats" regulation or the utility commission having oversite. It has to do with DEBT. When the debt is paid off, your rates will go down (and should be lower than Duke or Progress). Unfortunately, that's years away. Making a deal is always risky. Sometimes it pays, other times it doesn't. In this case what seemed like a good deal turned out not to be. No more bail outs! Look for ways to refinance or pay off the debt faster. But don't excpect the rest of the state to pay off the bad deal that was agreed to 40 years ago.
  • by james Location: Washington NC on May 11, 2011 at 07:17 PM
    it is about time way out in the country and only you can get is Electricites even Tideland next door a monopoly highest rates ive seen only 6 cents Kilowatt in Owensboro Ken and 16 cents Kilowatt here . Quess thay had to pay for those 150 10k street light on the waterfront. We need to build fuelcell and sell them the power back at the same price they charge and you would make a mint
  • by Col. Colt Location: ENC on May 11, 2011 at 04:51 PM
    Get use to it, yoy aint seen nothing yet, Prices will necessarily rise, yo president!
  • by Emperornewrags Location: Greenville on May 11, 2011 at 04:48 PM
    WHERE are the voices from Greenville ???? Is it the city of gold; a pot of gold caring not how money is thrown away. Turning a blind eye to the abuse of its' citizens. Where are the Mayor and Counsil? Rather quiet and absent. Perhaps, the voters are/should be aware.
  • by Chuck Location: Greenville on May 11, 2011 at 03:33 PM
    It is very simple to Fix.Just give us a choice as where to buy our Electricy from.That would bring these suckers to their knees. But i am sure the state will not let us do that.
    • reply
      by Fishtales on May 11, 2011 at 04:42 PM in reply to Chuck
      And then you will get a surcharge from whoever has to perform maintenance on the wires, poles, transformers, etc. And taxes will go up.
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