Electric utilities in North Carolina

An illustrated guide to the electric utilities that serve North Carolina.

More than 100 separately organized electric utilities serve North Carolina's consumers. Depending on where you live or work, you could receive electric service from a consumer-owned cooperative, an investor-owned utility, your city government, a university-owned utility or some other utility operating in the state. Each covers a designated service area.

In the early days of electrification, power generally was available only in larger communities, where power companies could be assured of an economic return. In the 1930s and '40s, rural residents formed cooperatives that they could own and manage themselves to bring electricity to more sparsely populated regions.

After World War II, growth in North Carolina's towns and cities began spilling over into these formerly rural areas. In 1965, the North Carolina Utilities Commission (an agency of state government formed in 1891) brought together investor-owned utilities and cooperatives in order to define and assign service areas. This division of service areas still stands today, although with some modifications.

Municipally-owned utilities serve customers within their city or town limits. In 2005, state legislation clarified the procedures by which cooperatives and municipal electric systems negotiate their respective service areas in relation to one another.

In the summer of 2012, a merger of the investor-owned utilities Duke Energy and Progress Energy formed the largest electric utility in the nation. Duke Energy (the official name of the merged corporations) serves some 7.2 million electric accounts in six states, including about 3.2 million in North Carolina.

The North Carolina Utilities Commission has jurisdiction over the licensing of new generating plants operated by all electric utilities and over the construction of new electric transmission facilities that are 161 kilovolts and above in size. Investor-owned utilities operate within the jurisdiction of the commission, which oversees their rates and service practices. Cooperatives and municipal electric systems are regulated by their own local governing bodies.

Cooperatives pay all the taxes that investor-owned utilities pay, except income tax, because cooperatives are not-for-profit businesses.

The North Carolina Rural Electrification Authority, whose five members are appointed by the governor, reviews the cooperatives' federal loan applications and consumer comments.

Investor-owned electric utilities

Duke Energy Carolinas

  • Headquartered in Charlotte.
  • Serves approximately 2.4 million accounts in central and western North Carolina and western South Carolina in a service area of approximately 24,000 square miles.

Duke Energy Progress

  • Wholly-owned subsidiary of Duke Energy.
  • Serves approximately 1.5 million accounts in central and eastern North Carolina, plus an area in and around Asheville and in northeastern South Carolina. The total service area is approximately 34,000 square miles.

Dominion

  • Headquartered in Richmond. Operates in northeastern North Carolina as Dominion North Carolina Power.
  • Serves approximately 120,000 North Carolina accounts.

Electric cooperatives

  • Owned and governed by their members.
  • Approximately 950,000 North Carolina homes, farms and businesses (approximately 2.5 million people) are served by 26 cooperatives (also known as electric membership corporations or EMCs). Their service areas extend to 93 of the state's 100 counties.
  • 5 co-ops based in Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina serve border areas in North Carolina.
  • 25 co-ops belong to the North Carolina Electric Membership Corporation, a generation and transmission cooperative that supplies its members with power primarily purchased from other utilities. NCEMC is one of the largest buyers of wholesale electric power in the nation and also owns a partial interest in the Catawba Nuclear Station in York County, S.C., two natural gas-fueled plants (in Anson and Richmond counties), and two diesel-powered generating facilities in Buxton and Ocracoke.
  • All 26 N.C. co-ops belong to the North Carolina Association of Electric Cooperatives, a service association that performs services statewide, including publishing Carolina Country magazine.

Publicly-owned utilities

  • More than 70 municipally-owned electric systems serve approximately 500,000 North Carolina households and businesses.
  • Six universities own and operate electric utilities that serve the campuses: East Carolina, Elizabeth City State, N.C. State, UNC-Chapel Hill, UNC-Greensboro and Western Carolina.
  • New River Power & Light is a unit of Appalachian State University and serves the university and the town of Boone. New River buys its power from the Blue Ridge Electric cooperative.
  • Most of these systems are members of ElectriCities, an umbrella non-profit organization that provides its member systems such services as training, member and government relations, communications and emergency assistance. ElectriCities also manages two municipal power agencies supplying wholesale electricity directly to 51 ElectriCities members and indirectly to another five members. These power agencies are North Carolina Municipal Power Agency Number 1, which has a partial interest in the Catawba Nuclear Station, and North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency, which has partial interests in Duke Energy's Mayo and Roxboro fossil steam plants and Brunswick and Harris nuclear plants.
  • A portion of the electric power for these municipally-owned systems is purchased wholesale from investor-owned utilities.

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