Update on Reliable Electric Power

Since Kinston reduced electric rates by an average of 10% in 2015, we’ve already changed all street lights to LED, saving our taxpayers money.

We also started work on a second Point of Delivery for our power supply, thus reducing our dependency on one source. The unfortunate and recent OBX power outage is a great example of relying on a single Point of Delivery.
With the electric rate reduction, we also saved enough cash to implement a smart grid system that gives customers more control. You’ll learn more on this as we move forward.

The 4th major improvement was upgrading 2 of our largest circuits with new poles and lines to handle increased customer demand.

In this year’s budget, we’re upgrading the poles and lines for one of our major business thoroughfares – Vernon Ave. Stay tuned for those upgrades.

And we’re implementing all these upgrades WITHOUT a single rate increase. Special thanks to our incredible team at Kinston Public Services.

KFP: Kinston administrators attend ElectriCities conference in Asheville

By Junious Smith III / Staff Writer 

A conference several city administrators went to recently in Asheville could be beneficial to Kinston residents in the future.

Members of the Kinston City Council and Public Services attended the ElectriCities of N.C. Annual Conference from Aug. 1-3, learning about alternative methods of energy, economic and municipal updates and ways to attract new tourists.

“I thought it was a positive conference,” Kinston City Manager Tony Sears said. “We have to look at some of our options and do our best to implement the right ones.”

One of the issues discussed was tourism; North Carolina experienced a banner year in 2012, with tourism rising in all 100 counties. According to visitnc.com, North Carolina is the sixth-most visited state for domestic visitors.

“We have to continue telling people about what we have in Kinston and get them excited about coming here,” Sears said. “We need to do that not just for those outside of the state, but inside as well.”

With electric rates being a major factor in Kinston, Mayor B.J. Murphy looked at possible alternatives.

“The biggest takeaway for me was the discussion on solar power,” Murphy said. “The city has been faced with two different proposals on solar farms, and with the cost of solar power coming down, it’s almost breakeven.”

Murphy also said finding a way to harness solar power would be very beneficial toward the city.

“One challenge is battery storage,” Murphy said. “When the sun hits solar panel, power goes directly into the line. The challenge is utilizing power when needed. How do you store solar energy, and then distribute the power at a peak time?

“The technology isn’t here yet. We could be looking at the next 10, 20, or 30 years until we’re able to make cost-efficient way of distributing when needed. We’re still prohibited to do so on a massive scale.”

Kinston Public Services Director Rhonda Barwick was impressed with the amount of municipalities across the state coming to the conference.

“It’s always good when you have the information from staff, but it was an added benefit of having mayors and councilmen with good ideas,” Barwick said.

One of the biggest points Barwick drew out of the conference was a push for a Smartgrid system, which would help those paying power bills in the city.

“We’re looking at Smartgrid and seeing if we can afford it and bring it here,” Barwick said. “The system would allow us to query the meter, but there are plenty of other pieces. Customers can come to City Hall with questions about their kilowatt hours and the system would let them know which devices are using the most energy.

“The system would also allow us to give customers the option to select how many kilowatt hours they’ll need per month and let them know how many they’ve used, which helps customers manage their hours better. We could also cut meters on or off remotely, which limits the number of trips we have to take, which is more convenient for us.”

For the administration, the current focus is on finding ways to improve efficiency in the city and looking to help other regions as well in coming to a solution.

“The city of Kinston needs to develop a strategy on ways to upgrade aging infrastructure,” Murphy said. “Hopefully, since so many other municipalities are facing the same issue, we can learn from each other in a collaboration of ideas and policies.”

 

Junious Smith III can be reached 252-559-1077 andJunious.Smith@Kinston.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JuniousSmithIII.

Breakout box:

Last year, there were record numbers across the board in visitor spending, including an increase in all 100 counties. Here is the amount of money the state brought in:

n $19.4 billion in visitor spending

n $4.39 billion in direct tourism payroll

n $970 million in state tax revenues

n $579 million in local tax revenues

Source: visitnc.com

Published: Monday, August 12, 2013 at 20:30 PM.

KFP: Kinston administrators attend ElectriCities conference in Asheville

By Junious Smith III / Staff Writer

Published: Monday, August 12, 2013 at 20:30 PM.

A conference several city administrators went to recently in Asheville could be beneficial to Kinston residents in the future.

Members of the Kinston City Council and Public Services attended the ElectriCities of N.C. Annual Conference from Aug. 1-3, learning about alternative methods of energy, economic and municipal updates and ways to attract new tourists.

“I thought it was a positive conference,” Kinston City Manager Tony Sears said. “We have to look at some of our options and do our best to implement the right ones.”

One of the issues discussed was tourism; North Carolina experienced a banner year in 2012, with tourism rising in all 100 counties. According to visitnc.com, North Carolina is the sixth-most visited state for domestic visitors.

“We have to continue telling people about what we have in Kinston and get them excited about coming here,” Sears said. “We need to do that not just for those outside of the state, but inside as well.”

With electric rates being a major factor in Kinston, Mayor B.J. Murphy looked at possible alternatives.

“The biggest takeaway for me was the discussion on solar power,” Murphy said. “The city has been faced with two different proposals on solar farms, and with the cost of solar power coming down, it’s almost breakeven.”

Murphy also said finding a way to harness solar power would be very beneficial toward the city.

“One challenge is battery storage,” Murphy said. “When the sun hits solar panel, power goes directly into the line. The challenge is utilizing power when needed. How do you store solar energy, and then distribute the power at a peak time?

“The technology isn’t here yet. We could be looking at the next 10, 20, or 30 years until we’re able to make cost-efficient way of distributing when needed. We’re still prohibited to do so on a massive scale.”

Kinston Public Services Director Rhonda Barwick was impressed with the amount of municipalities across the state coming to the conference.

“It’s always good when you have the information from staff, but it was an added benefit of having mayors and councilmen with good ideas,” Barwick said.

One of the biggest points Barwick drew out of the conference was a push for a Smartgrid system, which would help those paying power bills in the city.

“We’re looking at Smartgrid and seeing if we can afford it and bring it here,” Barwick said. “The system would allow us to query the meter, but there are plenty of other pieces. Customers can come to City Hall with questions about their kilowatt hours and the system would let them know which devices are using the most energy.

“The system would also allow us to give customers the option to select how many kilowatt hours they’ll need per month and let them know how many they’ve used, which helps customers manage their hours better. We could also cut meters on or off remotely, which limits the number of trips we have to take, which is more convenient for us.”

For the administration, the current focus is on finding ways to improve efficiency in the city and looking to help other regions as well in coming to a solution.

“The city of Kinston needs to develop a strategy on ways to upgrade aging infrastructure,” Murphy said. “Hopefully, since so many other municipalities are facing the same issue, we can learn from each other in a collaboration of ideas and policies.”

 

Junious Smith III can be reached 252-559-1077 andJunious.Smith@Kinston.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JuniousSmithIII.

Breakout box:

Last year, there were record numbers across the board in visitor spending, including an increase in all 100 counties. Here is the amount of money the state brought in:

n $19.4 billion in visitor spending

n $4.39 billion in direct tourism payroll

n $970 million in state tax revenues

n $579 million in local tax revenues

Source: visitnc.com

http://www.kinston.com/news/local/kinston-administrators-attend-electricities-conference-in-asheville-1.185917

Electricities CEO Graham Edwards at Kinston City Council

Electricities CEO Graham Edwards (3:20) discussed the history, current trends and outlook of Public Power in Eastern NC.  Mr. Edwards discussed why refinancing our debt is not a plausible option at this time.  Later he provided me a chart which shows that refinancing would cost us over $280 million in the long run.

We also discussed future opportunities with Duke Energy.  I stated that, “I certainly support the idea of working with [Duke] on our generation assets to see if there is something we can do there.  Obviously, I think most of the cities if not all of them would like to hold on to their distribution assets.  But, certainly I’m open to the idea of discussions with them on the generation side.”

Kinston City Council Work Session for 11/19/2012
Kinston City Council Work Session part two for 11/19/2012 
Kinston City Council Regular Session for 11/19/2012

KFP: Former Kinston councilman elected to ElectriCities board

By David Anderson / The Free Press

Will Barker, a former Kinston city councilman, has been elected to a seat on ElectriCities’ Board of Directors.

Barker currently holds a seat on the board for the N.C. Eastern Municipal Power Agency, which provides power to 32 member cities in Eastern North Carolina — including Kinston, La Grange, Hookerton, Ayden and New Bern — using power plants it jointly owns with Progress Energy.

“You feel honored that you have 32 cities voting for you to represent them on the ElectriCities board,” Barker said last week.

He was elected by his fellow NCEMPA Board of Commissioners members last week to a seat on the ElectriCities board, and will be sworn in when the board meets in January.

ElectriCities, which is headquartered in Raleigh, is a nonprofit agency which represents public power communities and provides management services for NCEMPA and its sister agency, N.C. Municipal Power Agency 1.

The NCMPA1 provides power to 19 member communities in the western part of the state.

“It’s an opportunity to learn more about how ElectriCities operates and understand more about what their role is in terms of interaction with the eastern and western agencies,” Barker said.

There are 14 seats on the ElectriCities board, with six members drawn from eastern communities, six drawn from western communities and two from unaffiliated communities.

Barker will hold a “weighted” seat, which gives Kinston extra votes based on its ownership share in the power generating assets. Larger cities in the power agencies, such as Wilson, Rocky Mount and New Bern, have weighted seats.

There are also “majority” seats, in which one member has one vote.

Barker was appointed to the Kinston City Council in early 2007 to fill the remainder of the term of Van Braxton, who was elected to the N.C. House in 2006.

Barker was then elected to a four-year term in late 2007. He decided not to run again for the office in 2011.

He is a certified public accountant and a partner in the Kinston firm of Sitterson & Barker PA.

Barker has also served on the Neuse Regional Water and Sewer Authority board.

La Grange Town Manager John Craft, chairman of the ElectriCities board, said Barker is “very well-versed in the issues” facing public power communities, such as customer rates significantly higher than those of private or cooperative utilities, the agencies’ multi-billion-dollar debt which drives that rate disparity and potential impacts from the merger of Duke Energy and Progress Energy.

“He’s been a very able representative of Kinston ever since he’s been on the (NCEMPA) Board of Commissioners, so I think Will will be a great member,” Craft said.

Barker was nominated by Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy and his fellow NCEMPA board members.

“He understands constraints and challenges public servants face and I am certain of his capacity and willingness to provide excellent representation,” Murphy wrote in his letter of support.

David Andersoncan be reached at 252-559-1077 orDavid.Anderson@Kinston.com. Follow him on Twitter at DavidFreePress

KFP: Kinston, ElectriCities leaders see positive impacts from Duke-Progress merger

by David Anderson

Leaders of Kinston and ElectriCities expect municipal electric customers could see positive impacts from the merger of Duke Energy and Progress Energy, which is expected to decrease their power purchasing costs.

Rhonda Barwick, Kinston Public Services director, said last Friday officials with the N.C. Eastern Municipal Power Agency, the power agency for 32 Eastern North Carolina public power communities — including Kinston and La Grange — were reviewing the 182-page order from the N.C. Utilities Commission approving the merger.

The process had to be approved by multiple federal and state regulatory agencies.

“What we’re interested in is to make sure that no costs related to the merger will affect our public power customers,” Barwick said. “We feel confident that it will not have a negative impact.”

She added: “We’ll know more once they’ve completed their review.”

Fifty-one towns and cities in North Carolina provide power directly to their residents from power generating assets they jointly own with Progress and Duke.

The N.C. Eastern Municipal Power Agency represents 32 communities in the eastern part of the state, and the N.C. Municipal Power Agency 1 represents 19 cities in the western part of the state.

The power agencies also have contracts to purchase supplemental power from Duke and Progress to fully meet their customers’ power needs.

Officials with the power agencies and ElectriCities, the Raleigh-based nonprofit agency which manages their operations and represents them, have watched the merger closely since the process began in early 2011.

“To me the merger is good for the power agencies, and that’s what we said in our filings (with regulators),” ElectriCities CEO Graham Edwards said.

Duke and Progress officials had stated they would not take on any part of the several billion dollars in debt owed by both power agencies, which they took on in the early 1980s to buy into the power plants.

The debt is the primary reason why power bills of municipal customers are typically about 30 percent higher than the bills of private utility customers.

The eastern municipal utilities cannot save their customers any money through debt relief, but they can pass on savings thanks to currently-dropping fuel costs, and lower power purchasing costs negotiated with Progress, Edwards explained.

“It’ll have a very positive impact on the 32 cities in the eastern power agency,” he said.

Edwards said 25 to 30 percent of NCEMPA’s annual $700 million budget goes toward supplemental power purchasing.

Representatives of New Bern and Rocky Mount, members of NCEMPA, hired consultants and attorneys to intervene on the cities’ behalf last year when the merger was being approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission — the FERC has since given conditional approval.

Kinston officials considered intervening as well, and put $12,500 toward the hiring of consultants and attorneys, but eventually decided not to take part.

“Our theory, and the one that I presented to (city) council was that we could spend the money to intervene, but if the federal or state utility commission sided with any city that intervened, then all the NCEMPA cities would actually benefit,” Mayor B.J. Murphy said. “Therefore, we would be financially wiser to pull out of the intervention process; that theory proved to be correct in the sense that the merger has now been approved.”

 

Little change for Progress customers

The state’s Utilities Commission approved the merger last week — Progress Energy Carolinas spokesman Mike Hughes said the South Carolina Public Service Commission is scheduled to meet today and give a final ruling.

“Assuming a favorable ruling there, we expect to close the merger Monday afternoon,” Hughes said last Friday.

If the members of the South Carolina commission approve, Duke’s purchase of Progress will create the largest private utility in the United States.

The combined utilities would serve 7.1 million customers in six states — North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio.

There are more than 15,000 Progress customers in Lenoir, Greene and Jones counties.

Hughes said the merger will not stop customers’ rates from increasing, but it is expected to “mitigate” the effect of future rate increases by increasing efficiency and decreasing fuel costs.

“Over time, as with just about everything else, prices are going up but we expect the merger to help to mitigate those future price impacts,” he said. “We expect to have significant efficiencies between the companies as we integrate our companies and we hope over time that will result in smaller increases for our customers.”

Hughes said Progress Energy customers do not currently have to do anything as the merger takes effect — they can still pay bills online through progress-energy.com, although they will be redirected to another site.

“Our customers will still call the same number for services,” Hughes said. “We will still have the same level of responsiveness to our customers and they don’t need to do anything differently.”

 

Rate changes

Progress rates are expected to change twice in the next year, although those changes are not related to the merger.

Officials have made their annual application to the N.C. Utilities Commission to adjust rates based on fuel costs, as well as the fluctuating costs of energy efficiency programs and renewable energy efforts mandated by the state.

Hughes said, if approved, the net savings will be 66 cents per 1,000 kwh of monthly use.

Progress officials also plan to apply to the NCUC later this year for the first “general rate increase” in 25 years to reflect the costs of “fleet modernization,” which includes converting coal-fired power plants to natural gas, and investing in transmission and distribution lines.

 

The Raleigh News and Observer and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

David Anderson can be reached at 252-559-1077 or danderson@freedomenc.com. Follow him on Twitter at DavidFreePress.

 

KFP: Legislative committee gathers information on electric issues in ENC

by David Anderson

RALEIGH — Debt relief from the state is not an option for lowering costs to local municipal electric customers.

That was the word from Sen. Buck Newton, R-Wilson, during Tuesday’s meeting of a special legislative committee convened to find a way of relieving Eastern North Carolina electric customers of high electric costs, which many consider to be the main reason why the region is stymied economically.

“Politically speaking, there will be no taxpayer bailout of NCEMPA (N.C. Eastern Municipal Power Agency),” Newton told reporters after the hearing. “In our view, it’s not appropriate for the taxpayers or the state.”

Newton is co-chairman of the Joint Municipal Power Agency Relief Committee, along with Rep. Jeff Collins, R-Nash. He said he wanted to see more of a “market approach” to solving the issue, such as selling power generating assets currently owned by the 32 cities that make up the NCEMPA, including Kinston and La Grange.

Based on information presented by ElectriCities CEO Graham Edwards during Tuesday’s meeting, selling coal and nuclear power assets would be a difficult proposition, though — ElectriCities is a nonprofit trade group tasked with managing the affairs of the NCEMPA and its sister agency for Western North Carolina public power communities.

Edwards noted NCEMPA currently owes $2.1 billion in debt on the funds it took on in the early 1980s to buy into power plants and guarantee a steady supply of power for customers. The debt makes the average bill of a public power customer about 35 percent higher then a customer of an investor-owned utility, such as Progress Energy, or a co-operative.

He said the current “book value” of the assets is $704 million.

“If that was a house that you owned, you would way, ‘I’m under water,’ ” Edwards told the committee.

He said he had asked the CEO of Progress Energy, Bill Johnson, about two years ago to look into having Progress buy back the city-owned assets — Progress and NCEMPA jointly own coal and nuclear plants — but Johnson stated in a letter it would not be possible.

“We have not been able to devise an option for purchasing the Power Agency’s share of the five generating units at the time that would serve the best interests of our customers and shareholders and your members,” Johnson wrote in a letter to Edwards.

Edwards said ElectriCities officials still look for opportunities to sell the assets, though.

“At the end of the day, the debt has got to be repaid,” he said.

Thomas A. Stith, program director for economic development at UNC’s Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise, gave a sobering report on the costs facing Eastern North Carolina electric customers — he stated residential customers in the East typically pay 13 to 18 cents per kilowatt hour, commercial customers 11.4 cents and industrial customers 7.9 cents.

“In the aggregate, you’re talking about approximately $240 million (a year), additional, those customers, whether they be residential, commercial and industrial customers are having to pay, just for utilities,” Stith said.

Representatives of two NCEMPA member cities, Greenville and Wake Forest, talked about how their communities work to overcome the electric cost burdens placed on their customers. In both cases, superior customer service and steady economic and population growth help ease those burdens.

Mark Williams, town manager for Wake Forest, said his community — which was once home to Wake Forest College and now hosts the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary — has grown by about 30,000 people since the 1980s.

The city’s utility must compete with Progress Energy and the Wake Electric cooperative, and has about 6,400 residential and commercial customers, but no industrial. The average bill for a municipal customer is about 19 percent higher than that of a Progress customer.

“When you can’t sell your product the cheapest, you have to make it up to your customers by providing second-to-none customer service,” Williams said.

Ron Elks, general manger and CEO of the Greenville Utilities Commission, said his city has benefited from the presence of ECU, the Brody School of Medicine and Pitt County Memorial Hospital, a regional medical center. The city has also seen strong industrial growth, and officials work to absorb costs before passing them along to customers.

Elks said the GUC has absorbed more than $15 million in wholesale power costs, and infrastructure costs, in the past 10 years.

The agency also has a policy of keeping rates “at or below the median or midpoint when compared to other regional electric providers.”

“If you want to be competitive when you operate a business, you don’t automatically pass costs along to your customers, you look at what your competitors are charging,” Elks explained.

Kinston City Manager Tony Sears, Mayor B.J. Murphy, City Councilman Sammy C. Aiken, as well as La Grange Town Manager John Craft, attended Tuesday’s meeting.

“Learning more about the history and the present and the … future of this operation is very vital to the success of our community,” Murphy said.

Aiken stated: “Using the Greenville model, we’re going to have to grow our way (out of the situation).”

Newton, the committee co-chairman, said the group will have another meeting later this winter, and provide a report to the legislature in the spring.

“If we can grow the economy and grow the economic pie, then it’s easier for everyone to be able to afford (the cost of electricity), and Greenville is the perfect example,” he said.

 

David Anderson can be reached at 252-559-1077 or danderson@freedomenc.com. Follow him on Twitter @DavidFreePress.

 

BREAKOUT BOX:

For more information on the Municipal Power Agency Relief Committee, visit the General Assembly’s website, ncleg.net, and click on the ‘Committee’ tab at the top of the page.

 

KFP: Lawmakers take another look at electric rates

by David Anderson
#Kinston Free Press
1/8/2012

Legislators will take a closer look at electric rates in Eastern North Carolina Tuesday in an effort to find solutions for costs that some say are crippling many residents and business owners.

The Joint Municipal Power Agency Relief committee will meet Tuesday from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. in Room 544 of the Legislative Office Building in Raleigh. The committee is co-chaired by Sen. Buck Newton, a Republican who represents Wilson and Nash counties, and Rep. Jeff Collins, R-Nash.

“My sincere desire is, that they take this issue seriously and it appears that they have . . . our request to the General Assembly subcommittee is simply to try to fully vet every single opportunity there could be, whether that is restructuring debt to selling assets,” Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy said.

Murphy, along with City Manager Tony Sears and Councilman Sammy C. Aiken, is planning to attend Tuesday’s meeting.

“I’m going there as an observer and supporter of the city of Kinston,” Aiken said.

Legislators are reviewing the costs, challenges and structure of the N.C. Eastern Municipal Power Agency, which sells electricity to 32 member cities, including Kinston, La Grange and Hookerton.

Electric rates are higher in the member city areas because of debt the group took on to partially build and own nuclear and coal-fired plants. Estimates show that close to 37 percent of customer bills go directly to the NCEMPA debt.

“I firmly believe that the only real solution left is the General Assembly’s involvement, because it’s so difficult to get rid of debt,” Murphy said. “Roughly 40 percent of our costs are related to debt, so unless a magician is able to figure that out, there’s not a clear alternative.”

That debt is not scheduled to be paid off until 2026, and officials with ElectriCities and NCEMPA have stated there are little to no options for restructuring or forgiving the debt.

A large portion of it was taken on to build the Shearon Harris nuclear power plant in the late 1970s.

“People have got to be more involved, not necessarily occupy the Shearon Harris nuclear plant but something’s got to be done; nothing is non-negotiable,” Aiken said.

The legislative committee meeting, which includes five members of the House and five members of the Senate, will receive several reports during the meeting.

Presentations are planned by ElectriCities CEO Graham Edwards, Wake Forest City Manager Mark Williams, Ron Elks, general manager of Greenville Utilities, and Thomas Stith, program director for economic development for the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Stith will provide an expert review of how economic development is affected in the east by the higher electric rates.

The committee is trying to gather information and will do so during a third meeting this year before the development of a report, due in April, that could lead to legislation.

Newton, the committee’s co-chair, said it is too early to know whether a solution can be found but the group was formed in an effort to find ways to reduce the cost of electricity by refinancing or restructuring NCEMPA’s debt.

 

Follow Tuesday’s committee meeting live on Twitter, on Staff Writer David Anderson’s Twitter feed, @DavidFreePress.

 

rochelle@wilsontimes.com | 252-265-7818. Free Press Staff Writer David Anderson contributed to this report.

http://www.kinston.com/news/electric-79104-nash-tuesday.html

 

Video: Electric Issues Town Hall via TACC9

On Tuesday, December 6th, the City of Kinston hosted a town hall on electric issues.  Here’s link to public documents and other related articles. 

Note: You can fast forward or rewind by clicking in the blue time bar area.



Kinston Town Meeting December 6 2011