WITN 7: Power Struggle Part 2: Can High Bills For ElectriCities Customers Be Fixed?

by Dave Jordan

Utility customers in Eastern Carolina who get their power from the Eastern Municipal Power Agency, managed by ElectriCities, are demanding something be done about their high bills.

Wednesday night we reported how rates for the 268,000 customers who get their power from one of the 32 municipalities that make up ElectriCities, have bills 20 to 35 percent higher than other utility customers, according to the CEO of ElectriCities.

A major part of that is the $2.4 billion dollar debt the power agency has, part of which was the result of buying into nuclear power facilities decades ago, which are operated by Progress Energy.

So is there anything that can be done about that contract? Is there anything else that can be done to bring down rates?

Edwards isn’t weighing in on what the mayors are doing, but says ElectriCities is studying how the merger might impact customers as they look for opportunities to achieve some cost savings.

But he says, “Having our debt paid off as a result of this merger I dont’t see that happening.”

Neither does Progress Energy. Officials there say they empathize with the customers, but do not support a plan or attempt to push the debt to Progress shareholders or customers, and don’t think the merger, which would create the nations largest utility company, is the appropriate mechanism for addressing ElectriCities rates.

Bettis couldn’t disagree more with Progress. “The disparity between rates is going to increase, thereby lessening our ability to compete in the future.”

Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy says that’s already happening.

“When new business comes we have a chance to compete and because our rates are a little bit higher it makes it tougher for these member cities to compete with Progress Energy.”

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