How Rocky Mount Lowered Public Utilities Bills

save money on public utilities

A landmark decision means Rocky Mount public utility customers received a 14 percent decrease in their electric rates

The Rocky Mount City Council officially approved the reduced electric rates resulting from the Duke Energy Progress asset sale.  

How Our City Reduced Public Utility Bills

Rocky Mount Public Utilities customers saw a reduction of roughly 3.18 cents per kilowatt-hour. One kilowatt-hour is the equivalent of powering a 100-watt light bulb for ten hours.

Citizens rejoiced, celebrating the results of a long campaign to lower utility bills not just in Rocky Mount, but across Eastern North Carolina as well. Lower bills mean more than just money in the bank: They provide additional incentives for new businesses and encourage downtown development. 

The relief hinged upon approval from the N.C. General Assembly, something that would not have been possible without support from Republicans, Democrats, N.C. Senators, Representatives and Rocky Mount City Council members.

The crucial milestone was when the N.C. General Assembly approved the sale of assets from the N.C. Eastern Municipal Power Agency (NCEMPA) to Duke Energy Progress. When Duke Energy Progress bought these power plants, it reduced NCEMPA's debt

Sound confusing? It can be. To truly understand the scope of what happened, we have to take a trip back to the 1970s. 

Reduced Public Utility Bills Encourages Development

Many remember the 70s as a decade of gasoline rationing and long lines at the pump.  The reason? OAPEC (Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Companies) refused to sell oil to the U.S., resulting in skyrocketing prices. The embargo ended in 1974, but prices remained high.

This energy crisis caused concern among cities. Would they be able to have a reliable source of electricity? What if there were multiple blackouts? How would citizens handle increases in fees from public utilities? Even wholesale rates for companies like Carolina Power and Light increased 243% during the 70s.

To ensure a reliable and affordable source of energy, municipalities jointly owned power generation plants—including the Shearon Harris nuclear power plant in Wake County.  The NCEMPA, composed of 32 eastern North Carolina cities and towns, was created in 1982.

While the cost-saving plan was innovative, NCEMPA faced several unforeseen challenges. Not only did the construction of the Shearon Harris nuclear power plant run over budget, but the Three Mile Island nuclear accident also prompted the government to place stricter regulations on power plants.


The result? For NCEMPA, the price of energy was more than double the projected cost, and higher interest rates coupled with a decline in growth left many power agency members with a disproportionate share of expenses. Other power companies with larger customer bases and a variety of assets were better able to absorb construction costs. (For a more extensive history of the issue click here).

A Revitalized Rocky Mount

In order to get back on track, and bring relief to NCEMPA customers across eastern North Carolina, the organization had to sell its assets. But in order to that, the N.C. General Assembly had to approve the transaction, which it did this year.

This achievement will go a long way toward economic development and lowering crime in Rocky Mount. 

According to a press release from Duke Energy Progress, the purchase will benefit both NCEMPA and itself:

“This purchase will provide long-term fuel savings for Duke Energy Progress customers, and provide an important economic benefit to Eastern North Carolina,” said Paul Newton, Duke Energy president – North Carolina. “The agreement represents the best spirit of private and public sectors working together toward a common goal. I am very proud of what we have achieved for our respective customers and for the citizens of our state.

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