More than 100 separately organized electric utilities serve North Carolina’s consumers. Depending on where you live or work, you could receive electric service from a consumer-owned cooperative, an investor-owned utility, your city government, or some other utility operating in the state. Each covers a designated area.
In the early days of electrification, power generally was available only in larger communities, where power companies could be assured of an economic return. In the 1930s and ‘40s, rural residents formed electric cooperatives that they could own and manage themselves to bring electricity to more sparsely populated regions.
After World War II, growth in North Carolina’s towns and cities began spilling over into these formerly rural areas. In 1965, the North Carolina Utilities Commission (an agency of state government formed in 1891) brought together investor-owned utilities and cooperatives in order to define and assign service areas. This division of service areas still stands today, although with some modifications.
The North Carolina Utilities Commission has jurisdiction over the licensing of new generating plants operated by all electric utilities and over the construction of new electric transmission facilities that are 161 kilovolts and above in size. Investor-owned utilities operate within the jurisdiction of the commission, which oversees their rates and service practices. Cooperatives and municipal electric systems are regulated by their own local governing bodies.
Cooperatives pay all the taxes that investor-owned utilities pay, except income tax, because cooperatives are not-for-profit organizations.
The North Carolina Rural Electrification Authority, whose five members are appointed by the governor, reviews the cooperatives’ federal loan applications and consumer comments.