Gov. Pat McCrory signed a bill Thursday that would pave the way for Duke Energy Progress to buy back shares of power plants from 32 municipal electric systems – a move likely to result in lower power bills in those communities.
Senate Bill 302 sailed through the legislature with only one “no” vote. It allows Duke to buy the towns’ share of plants for $1.2 billion, reducing their debt from $1.9 billion to $480 million.
The towns came together in the 1980s to buy into several power plants as a hedge against volatile energy prices. But the cost of the plants increased dramatically, leaving the towns with crippling debt that causes their electricity rates to be sharply higher.
Sen. Buck Newton, one of the sponsors, said the buyback would translate to rate cuts of 10 percent to 15 percent for the towns.
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McCrory traveled to Wilson – one of the affected towns – on Thursday to sign the bill.
“This purchase provides a private sector, market-driven solution to a major economic development obstacle we faced in eastern North Carolina,” McCrory said. “The lower electric rates this purchase should produce will save consumers money and make the region more attractive to job creators who want to take advantage of the region’s talented workforce and special quality of life.”