Local electric provider seeks to increase prices for the first time in 21 years

The+Appalachian+Online

The Appalachian Online

Angela McLinton

New River Light and Power is seeking out to raise its base energy rates for the first time since 1996. NRLP is an operating unit of Appalachian that serves customers on campus and in the Boone area. The first notice of an intent to file was entered June 30.

In a notice released by the North Carolina Utilities Commission on Aug. 28, NRLP’s average monthly residential bill for 1,000 kilowatt-hour usage would increase from $93.33 to $108.15. The monthly basic facilities charge for residents would go from $6.29 to $12.58.

NRLP first saw the signs of a potential rate hike back in 2010-2011 due to declining revenue, but made some changes and cuts to postpone the hike until after the Great Recession.

“For the past 100 years NRLP has prided itself on being your highly-reliable, low-cost electric power provider. We have not adjusted our base rates since 1996, so our rates have remained unchanged for more than 21 years,” General Manager Ed Miller said. “However, the cost of doing business has increased substantially over the years. So to allow us to continue providing a high level of service to our customers, we are asking for approval in increase our base electric rate charges.”

From 1996 to 2015, NRLP’s net revenues declined 11 percent, costing NRLP $500,000 a year, according to the application. ASU’s energy reduction campaign is also cited as a factor. One of the changes in the campaign is the utilization of LED lights, which has its own rate schedule, rather than the outdoor lighting rate schedule.

Miller acknowledges that LED lighting helps keep costs to the school down.

“As the electric industry is transforming, NRLP is making every effort to meet the desires of their customers including not only low cost and high reliability but other opportunities such as renewable generation, conservation, and reduction of carbon emissions,” Miller said.

To potentially worried customers, Miller said the increase will not be extreme and quality of service will remain the same.

“For over 100 years, NRLP has focused on efficiency and effectiveness and kept costs low. Even after the proposed increase, NRLP will still be ranked as one of the lowest costs utility providers in our state,” Miller said. “This year, NRLP ranked number one in the state for reliability, with the least number of interruptions. Last year our average response time was 15 minutes, while the median response time for other electric providers in North America was over 1.5 hours.”

Currently, NRLP purchases its power from Blue Ridge Energy Membership Cooperative, which purchases its power from Duke Energy Carolinas, which generates most of its energy from nuclear and coal-fired facilities. However, starting in 2022, NRLP will be purchasing power from NTE Carolinas. The new contract, which runs through Dec. 31, 2038, will see NTE provide NRLP with power from a 475-megawatt, natural gas-fired turbine at the Kings Mountain Energy Center, which is currently under construction. NRLP will continue to work with Blue Ridge Energy to receive transmission requirements.

“NRLP has signed a contract with NTE, a wholesale electric provider that will provide service to a number of utilities in North and South Carolina as early as 2018,” Miller said. “All forecasts show that we will see a reduction in our wholesale cost. NRLP looks forward to passing on these savings to our customers.”

A public hearing on the proposal will be held at 7 p.m. on Oct. 24, in the Watauga County Courthouse.

 

Story by; Angela McLinton, News Reporter