With the rising cost of fuel supplies (oil, gas, and uranium), most of North Carolina is facing rising bills for electricity. The topic has generated a lot of interest in the press (thanks to the blogs) and as a result, there are plenty of articles (both in print and online) that discuss the impact of rate increases on monthly residential bills. Those articles will usually mention in the rate (expressed as a percentage) and the incremental effects on the average residential bill (expressed as a dollar amount). That form of presentation makes perfect sense... most of the readers are concerned with the impact on their household budgets and checking accounts.
But I'm interested in the electrical rates. In particular, I'm interested in comparing the electrical rates in the eastern NC cities and towns. Do you think that your electrical rates are higher (or lower) than those of your neighbors in other towns or counties? Do you think that your power provider is doing its job better (or worse) than the provider two counties over? Those are good questions. Help me find the answers.
Before I start, I'll throw in an important caveat (as expressed by Rocky Mount):
Neither the City nor ElectriCities has rate comparison information or the resources to gather and keep such information current. There are several things to consider: Each city, each investor owned utility and each cooperative utility are very different. They each have a different mix of customers (residential, commercial and industrial), a different mix of energy supply (nuclear, coal, natural gas), different levels of load management, different distribution systems and losses, different budget philosophies at the retail level and different financial situations and obligations. Since it is not possible to compare "apples to apples", any comparison would be of little value especially considering the work involved and therefore is not performed.
The establishment of utility rates is very, very different from establishing the costs for consumer goods or services. Consumer goods and services can have a variable profit margin built into their cost. Utility rates are established to ensure all costs are covered and allocated to the correct rate class - nothing more and nothing less - so there is no room to adjust the rate up or down in comparison with another utility's rates.
Personally, I find that statement amazing. On the same website, they offer access to a nifty tool that calculates the average energy consumption of various household appliances (regardless of size, manufacturer or model). Yet, they can't compare rates across cities? Not even across the member cities of ElectriCities? Let's roll up our sleeves and help them out!
This will be a fairly simple exercise. I've started a chart of eastern NC cities towns and their residential electricity rates. Conveniently, this chart matches the eastern footprint of ElectriCities. If you focus on the NCEMPA (in green) and the eastern cities (both members and non-member cities), and eliminate the universities, you'll end up with a list of eastern NC municipalities that generate their own power, distribute their own power, or use an investor-owned utility to provide power.
To keep things simple, our analysis will assume that we're using 1,000 kwh each month. (Other key assumptions are listed below.)
NC Residential Rate Comparison (as of August 8, 2008)
Total cost is calculated based on an "average month" for 1,000 kwh.
|City||Service Fee||Effective Rate||Energy Rider||TOTAL COST|
|Based on a seasonal rate, charging $0.1084/kwh for the first 800 kwh and $0.0988/kwh for each additional kwh used for 8 months during the year, and $0.1084/kwh for the remaining months of the year. (Source)|
|Based on a flat rate of $0.11742/kwh. (Source)|
|Based on a usage-based rate, charging $0.0/kwh for the first 74 kwh and $0.131136/kwh for each additional kwh. (Source)|
|Based on a usage-based rate, charging $0.1166/kwh for the first 400 kwh and $0.0937/kwh for each additional kwh. (Source)|
|Based on a flat rate of $0.1282168/kwh. (Source, Source)|
|Based on a flat rate of $0.1239/kwh. (Source)|
|Based on a flat rate of $0.1133/kwh. (Source)|
|Based on a flat rate of $0.107063/kwh. (Source)|
|Based on a usage-based rate, charging $0.075/kwh for the first 500 kwh and $0.0815/kwh for each additional kwh. (Source)|
|Based on a seasonal rate, charging $0.12257/kwh for 8 months of the year and $0.112/kwh for the remaining months. (Source)|
|Based on a flat rate of $0.125/kwh. (Source)|
|Based on a seasonal rate, charging $0.10998/kwh for 8 months of the year and $0.12414/kwh for the remaining months. (Source)|
|Based on a usage-based rate, charging $0.1154432/kwh for the first 800 kwh and $0.1017452/kwh for each additional kwh. (Source)|
|Based on a flat rate of $0.0938/kwh. (Source)|
|Based on a usage-based rate, charging $0.108/kwh for the first 2000 kwh and $0.10185/kwh for each additional kwh. (Source)|
|Based on a usage-based rate, charging $0.0951/kwh for the first 300 kwh and $0.1112/kwh for each additional kwh. (Source)|
|Based on a seasonal rate, charging $0.08678/kwh for 8 months of the year and $0.09678/kwh for the remaining months. (Source)|
|Based on a flat rate of $0.1269762/kwh. (Source)|
|Based on a flat rate of $0.1121/kwh. (Source)|
|Based on a flat rate of $0.1272284/kwh. (Source, Source)|
|Based on a flat rate of $0.09497/kwh. (Source)|
|Based on a seasonal rate, charging $0.11743/kwh for 8 months of the year and $0.13033/kwh for the remaining months. (Source)|
|City||Service Fee||Effective Rate||Energy Rider||TOTAL COST|
Black Creek, Fountain, Macclesfield, Pinetops, Stantonsburg, Walstonburg, Wilmington, Windsor, Winterville, Edenton, Fremont, Hamilton, Hertford, Hookerton, Laurinburg, Louisburg, Pikeville, Red Springs, Robersonville, Scotland Neck, Southport, Tarboro, and Washington
I need your help to add cities to this chart and to confirm the rate information from the cities that are already listed. Spread the word and feel free to post this message elsewhere, but please post any new information back here on this posting at BlueNC.
If your city is NOT on the chart, find and post the following information:
- Town: Let me know which town you're providing.
- Power Company: Let me know the name of your power company. (Many of the towns that aren't on this list are served by co-ops, and I'd like to include them too).
- Service Charge (or base charge or customer charge): This should be the basic residential rate (and it's a flat fee). It could be between $5 and $15. It may be listed as a single phase residential charge.
- Usage Charge: This is the variable rate (for example, $0.095/kWh).
- You may a rate that varies based on the time of year (for example, charging more during the summer). If that's the case, let me know both the rates AND the months that the rate is applicable.
- You may a rate that varies based on your usage. For example, Benson has one rate for the first 400 kWh and a different rate for each kWH after the first 400. Let me know the both the rates AND the usage thresholds.
- Fuel Rider Charge: You may also have a "fuel rider" that allows the power company to adjust for varying fuel prices. For example, New Bern has $0.01 / kWh "Energy Rider" which effectively makes its consumption charge $0.01 higher.
- Sources: Let me know the source of your information. If it's a website, include the link to the website. If you called your power provider, include the person you called. If the information was included in your bill, include the date ("as of August 3, 2008").
I'm not including taxes, rebates, or equipment charges. Those are important (and I'll come back to taxes later), but we'll leave them out of this exercise.
NOTE: If you find a silly error on one of the websites, let the webmaster know and let me know that as well. I've seen one website that proudly announces itself as a "pubic power" community (that's a creative form of alternative energy) and I've seen another that claims to charge 0.01 cents per hour of usage (which is a rate I'd love to have).
If your city is already on the chart, please help me confirm the rate information that I've listed. This information is only as good as the websites that I've used as sources. Check your own bills, your local newspapers, or call your utility provider.
I'll update the chart and the numbers as information trickles in. Leave me a message if you have any questions or suggestions.
Once I've collected the data, we'll slice it and dice it (and add NCMPA1 cities too). Let's see what the analysis tells us about rates across our state.