A legislative committee charged with looking for ways to reduce high electric rates for Eastern North Carolina residents still has more questions than answers following its final meeting last week.
The Joint Municipal Power Agency Relief Committee approved a report of their findings and recommendations Wednesday in Raleigh. Leaders of the committee say the issue requires more investigation and study.
The primary obstacle to the committee’s work has been the stalled merger between Duke Energy and Progress Energy. Until the fate of that proposed merger is resolved, lawmakers say they are unable to consider all possible solutions to the problem of high electric rates, including the possible sale of generation assets.
The committee did recommend legislation that would limit the amount of money certain cities could transfer from their electric funds to their general funds. The proposed legislation would expand a 2011 law that applies to Clayton, Selma and Smithfield to include all 32 cities – including Rocky Mount – that make up the N.C. Eastern Municipal Power Agency.
The legislation would prohibit those towns and cities from transferring more than 3 percent of the gross capital assets of the electric system or more than 5 percent of the gross annual revenues of the electric system.
While Rocky Mount likely would not be affected by the legislation – the city adopted a policy limiting such transfers to 3 percent of the electric fund’s gross fixed assets in 1996 – lawmakers would be wise to move cautiously on the measure.
The towns and cities that would be affected by such a limit possess varied fiscal conditions and unique sets of challenges and resources. Imposing a one-size-fits-all limit from Raleigh would strip those communities of the local control they require to address their specific needs.