Perspective

Deck: 
Small Towns Carry Clout
Fortnightly Magazine - May 1 2000
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Three small towns cut costs in half by shopping for power, but major trouble lies ahead without regional grid management.

Nothing was certain back in 1995, when three small towns in North Carolina decided to shop for cheaper electric rates. Editorials appeared in local newspapers, expressing reservations, but the town leaders pushed forward. In the municipalities of Stantonsburg, Lucama, and Black Creek, the local officials and the town boards continued to believe it could be done. They acknowledged the work that lay ahead but felt it was essential - for their citizens and their local economies - to search for relief from some of the highest electric rates in the nation.

Most industry observers mistakenly believe that North Carolina has low electric rates throughout the state. That assumption is false, however. Residents in some parts of the state pay rates as high as 11 cents and 12 cents per kilowatt-hour. That was the case in Black Creek, Lucama, and Stantonsburg, before their mayors and town leaders decided to take action. They had seen the hardship that high power bills could impose on local citizens. Elderly residents living on fixed incomes and in mobile homes were often afraid to turn on the air conditioners for fear of high power bills. Young families struggling to get by faced monthly power bills that consistently ranged from $300 to $400.

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