Utilities negotiations offer high hopes

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It’s probably safe to say that a good number of our readers are Rocky Mount utilities customers. If that label applies to you, welcome to the sidelines of an interesting bargaining arena.

It isn’t often that we get a peek at the negotiations going on between muncipalities and power suppliers. And it’s even less often that the potential stakes are as high as what one analyst described this week for Telegram business writer John Henderson.

As we’ve reported several times now, Duke Energy is negotiating to buy the shares of four power plants – and assume some or all of the accompanying debt – from the N.C. Eastern Municipal Power Agency.

The Power Agency, made up of Rocky Mount and 31 other cities in Eastern North Carolina, has long borne the payments of prinicple and interest for buying into the Shearon Harris Nuclear Plant, Brunswick Nuclear Plant and two coal-burning power plants in Person County. Because of that debt, utilities bills in Rocky Mount and other member cities typically have been 20 to 40 percent higher than those in cities that aren’t part of the agency.

But relief may be in sight, at last. An attorney with the University of North Carolina Center for Civil Rights told Henderson this week that, depending on negotiations, a sale to Duke could result in utilities bills cut by as much as one-third.

Can you imagine? While a third seems overly optimistic to the inner cynic in some of us, even a savings of 15 to 20 percent would be welcomed warmly.

The waiting game has only just begun. Analysts say negotiations of the sale could last a year or more. And the terms of such a deal would be subject to regulatory scrutiny before they can be approved.

But the thought of a utilities bill one day that doesn’t shock the senses is a pursuit well worth pursuing. We eagerly await word from the bargaining arena.



The City of Rocky Mount, on it's webpage shows Duke Energy rates being 18.9 percent cheaper than Rocky Mount Public Utilities. How will bills be cut by 33%? Who is lying? Obviously, Rocky Mount will have to mark up any Wholesale Energy prices from Duke Energy to a level sufficient to cover the cost of running the City of Rocky Mount Public Utilities and at the same time make enough profit to continue subsidizing the City of Rocky Mount Budget, or in lieu of continuing to subsidize the City of Rocky Mount Budget, have to raise taxes. It seems to me that rates will actually be reduced only a few percentage points (if at all), not 33%, not 20%, not 15%. Perhaps someone from the City of Rocky Mount Public Utilities could be interviewed to explain this huge projected savings.

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