Smithfield electricity customers will have to wait an extra month to see their bills drop 5 percent.
The wholesale rate charged to Smithfield was scheduled to fall July 1, once the N.C. Eastern Municipal Power Agency completed the sale of its power-plant assets to Duke Energy. Smithfield is one of 32 NCEMPA members that agreed to collectively sell their shares of power plants for $1.2 billion. Because the sale will largely erase the debt towns incurred to purchase the power-plant shares, they should be able to lower their retail electricity rates.
The sale was expected to close June 30, but that date has been pushed back to July 31, according to Graham Edwards, chief executive of ElectriCities, which oversees the NCEMPA. In an email, Edwards wrote that the holdup came from the N.C. Utilities Commission, which opted not to expedite one of its regulatory procedures in order to meet the June 30 deadline.
“As we have said many times, all the stars have to align for us to close this transaction June 30,” Edwards wrote. “Unfortunately, one of the stars has not aligned.”
For Smithfield residents, that means electricity rates should drop in August instead of July.
Once it goes through, the deal could slash the wholesale price Smithfield pays for electricity by up to 15 percent. To determine how much of those savings the town can pass on to its customers, the town has paid $20,700 for ElectriCities to complete a comprehensive rate study.
Smithfield expects to have the study by the end of the year. In the meantime, the Town Council voted to cut rates by 5 percent across the board as soon as the sale to Duke Energy goes through.
The savings should begin in August, which means they would show up on electric bills mailed in September.
The Smithfield Town Council pushed the items on its July agenda back to August after failing to have a quorum at July’s regularly scheduled meeting. State law requires attendance by four of seven councilmen for a town to conduct official business, and Smithfield fell one short of that mark.
However, Mayor John Lampe proceeded as planned with the public ceremonies for two promotions and one addition to the Smithfield Police Department.
▪ Brian O’Branovich was promoted to lieutenant of the C Team’s patrol activities. O’Branovich has 10 years with the SPD. He has previously been a master police officer, housing authority officer, general investigator and patrol sergeant.
▪ David Johnson was promoted to patrol sergeant supervising the B Team staff. Johnson has 11 years with the department. For the last seven years, he was an investigator, and he previously held the rank of master police officer.
▪ Miguel Renteria was sworn in to fill a vacancy on the police force. Renteria was hired under a partial employment contract while he completes basic law enforcement training at Johnston Community College. He is assigned to the B Team patrol.