Rocky Mount and New Bern should continue to insist on the best possible result for utility customers from the proposed Duke Energy Corp. and Progress Energy Inc. merger.
The story is one the public has heard often. Two large businesses want to combine to become the largest of their type in the nation. The profits would be huge, once enough jobs are eliminated. And both sides promise that there’s no chance the new mega utility company would monopolize markets.
To quote an old phrase, “Pull the other one, it’s got bells on.”
Rocky Mount is right to pursue this course. The only choice customers have when it comes to buying electricity is yes or no. There is no opportunity to buy from others for residents and businesses.
There is a wholesale market for power between utilities, but the proposed mitigation plan for this merger doesn’t seem to do anything that would help reduce the monopoly that would form. So far, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has agreed with the cities’ arguments and delayed the merger.
This is a project worth pursuing because Rocky Mount and all the other municipalities in ElectriCities already pay much higher prices because of the debt tied to those providers. Higher costs on wholesale power would only make that burden worse.
The latest plan includes contingencies by which Duke Power might not actually transfer electricity to wholesale buyers despite guaranteed profits for the marketers.
How can something like this make things better for utility customers?
Rocky Mount has spent about $265,000 in legal fees to fight the merger. Some have called that a waste of money. But any chance for relief from a potential monopoly or a reduction in the ElectriCities debt would be welcome in Eastern North Carolina.