Frequently Asked Questions

What is Public Power?

Public Power's first light in North Carolina brightened night skies in Statesville on a chilly February evening in 1889, when a local resident flipped the switch on the state's first municipally owned utility. Since then, more than 70 other NC cities, towns and university systems have joined Statesville in the Public Power industry. To them, owning their own power system means local control, fast, neighborly service and economic benefits for their residents.

To maximize their value to their communities and customers, 64 of those cities formed a not-for-profit organization in 1965 that would protect the interests of Public Power. That group was eventually named ElectriCities of North Carolina, Inc.

ElectriCities has 99 members representing Public Power communities in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia that distribute electricity. 51 of them are also participants in either North Carolina Municipal Power Agency Number 1 or North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency, which also generate the power supplied to over 400,000 customers.

Public Power communities have a long history of service. The average ElectriCities member has more than 75 years of experience operating an electric distribution system; many are nearing 100 years of service.

Public Power is a national concept, with approximately 2,000 municipally owned electric utilities serving more than 35 million Americans. Most of these utilities serve small communities with populations between 10,000 and four million. However, some large metropolitan areas — Los Angeles, Memphis and San Antonio — are also Public Power communities.

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Why be a Public Power community?

Revenue from electricity sales in Public Power communities goes toward operation of the system, and then to improving community services and quality of life for residents. A municipally owned utility does not have to pay a dividend to shareholders. In a Public Power community, "stockholders" are all those who benefit from municipal services and the citizens of the community.

Customers have a voice in the activities of their electric systems. Since each municipality sets its own policies, customers can speak out on electric power issues at their city and town council meetings. Public Power is the public's business.

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What are the Power Agencies?

North Carolina has two municipal Power Agencies: North Carolina Municipal Power Agency Number 1 (NCMPA1) and the North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency (NCEMPA).

In the Piedmont and foothills region of North Carolina, 19 municipalities are members of NCMPA1. The agency has 75 percent ownership interest in Catawba Nuclear Station Unit 2, located in York County, S.C., which is operated by Duke Power. It also has an agreement with Duke that provides for electric power via McGuire Nuclear Station and Catawba Unit 1 should Catawba 2 be unavailable for service.

In the eastern part of the state, 32 cities and towns are members of NCEMPA.

Both agencies purchase supplemental power above their ownership allotment as they need it, usually from investor-owned utilities and federally owned hydro-electric systems.

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How do the participants receive electric power?

The Power Agencies' ownership interests in the generating facilities, as well as contractual arrangements with Duke and CP&L, ensure that the power needs of participants will be met. Investor-owned utilities are paid a fee to be responsible for constructing, maintaining, fueling and managing the generating facilities, and send power to the municipalities over high-voltage transmission lines. Once the power reaches a city or town, the municipality distributes it to its customers.

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