City preps for parley|Meeting about electricrates set for April 26

Published 6:52 am Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Contributing Editor

Washington’s City Council is preparing for a town hall-style meeting scheduled for April 26 at which Washington Electric Utilities’ electric rates will be discussed.
During its meeting Monday, the council and the Washington Electric Utilities Advisory Board talked about what they want to accomplish at the April 26 meeting. Although council members expect to hear and address complaints about high electric bills from WEU customers, they also want to use that meeting as a forum to discuss energy conservation as a way to reduce electric bills.
The council invited the board to attend the April 26 meeting to help it inform the public about the city’s electric system and provide input on energy-conservation options.
“We consider your role a vital part of what we are trying to do,” Mayor Archie Jennings told board members at Monday’s meeting.
Don Wilkinson, an electrician and board member, said one thing the city can do is “teach people more about CFLs.” CFLs, or compact fluorescent light bulbs, when used properly, can significantly reduce power usage, he said. The board also recommends providing WEU customers with a checklist of things they can do to decrease their power usage to help lower their electric bills.
“There are things we can do to greatly reduce usage,” Wilkinson said.
On Monday, Jennings reiterated what he’s said about the city addressing high electric bills. He wants the city to take a two-prong approach.
First, the city must find ways to provide some immediate relief to its power customers who are struggling to pay high electric bills, said Jennings. That includes making customers aware of conservation and best-management practices that will help them reduce their power consumption and their electric bills. In that light, the city may pursue an minimal energy code, Jennings said.
Second, the mayor said, the city must work on a long-term solution. Jennings said the city is working with the N.C. Eastern Municipal Power Agency, from which the city buys its power, to identify ways to help the city lower its costs of providing power to its customers.
Jennings made it clear he wants the April 26 meeting to inform and educate WEU customers.
“We don’t want this to be just a gripe session,” Jennings said.
The mayor said he wants people to leave that meeting with an understanding the city is addressing their concerns and that they can do things to help lower their and the city’s electric bills.