Benson's History in Public Power
How did the Duke Energy asset sale in 2015 impact rates?
Duke Energy purchased the North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency's ownership interest in four power plants for $1.25 billion in 2015. The sale reduced NCEMPA’s debt by more than 70 percent and resulted in lower wholesale electric rates for Benson and other public power communities.
NCEMPA members now share responsibility for an outstanding debt of approximately $480 million.
The asset sale with Duke Energy was negotiated by ElectriCities, which provides valuable support and services to public power communities across North Carolina.
How do our electric bills compare today?
In November 2015, Benson commissioners voted unanimously to pass the savings of the Duke/NCEMPA deal along to the town's commercial and residential electric customers. Electric rates for residential customers were reduced by 8 percent — a savings of approximately $150 per year. Rates were reduced an additional 5 percent in 2016.
As a result of the asset sale, Benson and its customers saved more than $500,000 on wholesale electric costs in 2015.
Why doesn’t Duke Energy provide electric service to Benson?
Benson is proud to be a public power community. When NCEMPA sold its ownership in the power plants to Duke Energy, it did not change the way Benson customers receive their power. The town still owns the power lines, substations and transformers that carry electricity directly to our consumers. In addition, Benson continues to employ its own utility staff and maintains responsibility for issues such as maintenance, customer service and billing.
Why did Benson residents have high electric bills in the past?
To understand the history of Benson’s electric rates, you need to start back in the 1970s when the United States was experiencing an energy crisis. There was a growing demand for energy, and communities like Benson were concerned about potential blackouts when the demand for energy was high.
To ensure its customers would always have a reliable energy supply, Benson joined forces with 31 other public power communities in eastern North Carolina to form the North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency (NCEMPA).
NCEMPA invested in four new power plants being built by Carolina Power & Light (now Duke Energy Progress). These plants included the Shearon Harris Nuclear Plant in Wake County, another nuclear plant in Brunswick County and two coal-burning plants in Person County.
How did this affect Benson and its electric customers?
In 1979, a nuclear accident at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania prompted new regulations that lead to significantly higher-than-projected prices for nuclear energy. Ownership costs skyrocketed for the nuclear power plants that NCEMPA had invested in.
This led to significantly higher rates for NCEMPA members, most notably small public power communities like Benson. For decades, our electric rates were approximately 30 percent higher than those customers who received electricity from Duke Energy or South River.