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North Carolina

Funding New Power Plants

Should consumers or investors pay?

 

AARP North Carolina wants volunteers to be informed if the issue comes up next year, as expected. During a three- to four-hour training session this month, Tucker and other "utility watchdogs" will learn about the proposed change and how to challenge it. They'll also learn more about conserving energy so they can share those tips with others.

Greg Tanner, AARP North Carolina associate director, hopes volunteers will sign on for at least six months to two years. But, he said, a volunteer's time commitment will depend on how involved he or she wants to be.

Utility watchdogs will learn how to explain the rate-increase process, Tanner said. Some will learn how to organize small groups to discuss the issue.

With no specific proposal before the General Assembly, the actual effect on North Carolina residential customers is unknown. But in nearby Georgia, which allows construction costs to be passed on through streamlined hearings, a residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity a month pays an average of about $4.10 extra each month to cover nuclear plant construction, according to the Georgia Public Service Commission.

An interest-free loan?

Bill Gupton, of Raleigh, outreach director for Consumers Against Rate Hikes, said the risk and cost of construction should be borne by shareholders, not ratepayers.

"Local governments, small businesses and residential customers — especially those on fixed incomes — can't afford to give the utilities an interest-free loan," he said.

Tanner said that "whether you're on a fixed income or very wealthy, this is going to impact you, and more so for people with low incomes and seniors on fixed incomes."

To become a utility watchdog, contact Greg Tanner at 919-508-0273 or email gtanner@aarp.org.

Sue Price Johnson is a writer living in Raleigh, N.C.

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Lark McCarthy discusses the current state and problems of energy deregulation with Ken Malloy, executive director of the policy group CRISIS & Energy Markets, and Tyson Slocum, director of Public Citizen Energy Program.

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