Two antagonistic advocacy groups – one liberal and the other conservative – are jointly hosting their second forum to question what they call the protectionist policies that benefit Charlotte-based Duke Energy, the nation’s largest electric utility.

Durham-based NC WARN and Raleigh-based John Locke Foundation dub their collaboration a “strange bedfellows” affair that underscores the bipartisan urgency of the issue. Duke is a regulated utility with a monopoly service area and a captive customer base that pays electricity rates set by regulators, not by free-market competition.

Speakers will include Republican Rep. Mike Hager, of Rutherfordton, a former Duke engineer and chairman of the N.C. House Public Utilities Committee; Jim Clarkson, president of Sumter, S.C.-based Resource Supply Management; and Tampa Bay Times reporter Ivan Penn.

The moderator will be former N.C. Supreme Court Justice Robert Orr, who also headed the N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law and is known as a critic of government subsidies for corporations.

The event’s theme is “The Prospect of State-Mandated Consumer Financing of Power Plants.” The event is free and will be held from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the DoubleTree Brownstone Inn, 1707 Hillsborough St., Raleigh.

Staff writer John Murawski

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