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Graham Edwards
CEO, ElectriCities of North Carolina

Graham has been involved in the electric utility business for the past 30 years and has a strong understanding of the issues facing public power communities in North Carolina.

Graham has served as CEO of ElectriCities of North Carolina since 2009. Prior to that, he served as CEO of the Midwest ISO, one of the nation's largest regional transmission organizations, and CEO of Santee Cooper, one of the nation's largest public power providers.

Blog Archives


Plugged In

Get plugged in to issues affecting public power communities in North Carolina. Whether it's providing updates on Duke/Progress Energy merger or sharing information about ElectriCities ongoing efforts to control electric rates, Graham Edwards will share his insight and opinions on news and events that impact ElectriCities and the 70 communities it serves.

  • Reflecting on the NCEMPA Asset Sale Agreement

    It’s been a little over a month since we announced an agreement with Duke Energy Progress to sell NCEMPA’s ownership in our jointly-owned power plants for $1.2 billion. Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with people across the state about what this agreement means for North Carolina’s public power customers.

    Here is a snapshot of what I’ve been hearing:

    People across eastern North Carolina strongly support the sale and the lower energy costs it will bring. The Rocky Mount Telegram said it “can’t help but be excited by this turn of events” and that’s a sentiment shared across many of our communities. While we have a lot of regulatory hurdles that remain, I’m confident that the sale will be completed. As I’ve said before, this process is a marathon, not a sprint, and I encourage everyone to be patient throughout the regulatory process.    

    In the western part of the state, I’ve heard from many people who want to know what’s next for their communities. When we explored the option of selling NCMPA1’s interest in the Catawba Nuclear Plant, we hoped to find a similar solution to lowering costs. We discovered that the economics simply didn’t work and determined that the best course of action is to stay the course.    

    The good news: there is relief on the horizon. A sizable portion of NCMPA1’s debt will be retired by 2020 and that should lead to lower electric rates in public power communities across western North Carolina. There’s a good article in the High Point Enterprise that lays out the situation for High Point and other NCMPA1 members.

    It may take a few years longer to achieve lower energy costs in the west, but all public power customers across North Carolina should begin to see lower rates within the next six years. It the meantime, we will continue to look for additional ways to reduce our costs, better serve our customers and continue to deliver safe and reliable power.

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  • Power Forward: Our 2013 Annual Report

    Look back at the past year and you will find one common theme: a focus on the future.

    Whether it is searching for new ways to deliver value to the customers who depend on us or investing in infrastructure that will serve as the foundation for a successful future, we are constantly working toward a common goal: stronger public power communities that are well prepared to thrive in the years ahead.

    As the energy behind public power, ElectriCities has a responsibility to help our members look forward. Collectively, we have more than 500,000 residential, retail and industrial customers across North Carolina who are counting on us to provide safe and reliable power.


    That means having the right infrastructure in place to help us Power Forward with investments like the Prime Power Park in Albemarle. It’s being Forward Thinking with investments in smart grid technologies and energy education programs such as E-Tracker and home energy audits. And Paying It Forward by advancing our members’ communities and investment in their long-term success.

    We’re proud of the accomplishments we’ve seen and the many to come. I invite you to read more about the accomplishments of the North Carolina Public Power family, Albemarle, Benson and High Point, among others, in our 2013 Annual Report. See how we’ve teamed up with our members to Power Forward.

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  • NCEMPA Asset Sale Discussions

    By now, most of our stakeholders are well aware that North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency (NCEMPA) has entered into exclusive discussions with Duke Energy Progress regarding the potential sale of NCEMPA’s ownership in our jointly-owned plants, including Brunswick Nuclear Plant Units 1 and 2, Mayo Plant Unit 1, Roxboro Plant Unit 4 and the Harris Nuclear Plant.

    In the event that an agreement is reached, Duke Energy Progress and NCEMPA would enter into a wholesale power contract to meet the needs of NCEMPA customers currently served by the Power Agency’s interest in Duke Energy Progress plants. These exclusive discussions are to acquire NCEMPA’s interest in generation plants and do not include NCEMPA members’ distribution assets. All 32 municipalities would continue to receive their wholesale power from NCEMPA.

    ElectriCities will continue to negotiate all aspects of any potential transaction considering the best interest of NCEMPA Participants and their customers. In the past month, we have met with 18 city/town councils to discuss an overview of the negotiations, with more meetings scheduled in March. We are very encouraged by the response and feedback we've heard from our members. They are hopeful of the possibility to have more cost competitive electric rates.

    Please note the deal is a long way off—anywhere from 12 to 24 months. We will need regulatory approval, possibly legislative support or approval, and we’ll need the agreement of all 32 members of NCEMPA.

    Bottom line: This is a highly sensitive negotiation process and we cannot discuss details. We will, however, do our best to keep our stakeholders up-to-date with the information we can share. Our objective is more competitive rates for our communities while preserving the same reliability we have today. Stay tuned.

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  • Telling the ElectriCities Story

    I welcome any opportunity to tell ElectriCities’ story. NC Public Power has a rich history in North Carolina, starting with an electric streetlight installed in Statesville back in 1889. ElectriCities has a strong tradition as well, forming at a time when public power communities weren’t sure they would have the electricity needed for their communities to grow. Although everything hasn’t worked out just as we planned, we are proud of public power’s contribution to our state’s growth.

    I recently had the chance to testify before the General Assembly’s Joint Legislative Commission on Energy Policy. I presented information about the structure of municipal electric systems, the governing system of public power and how municipal electric rates are set. I also had an opportunity to answer questions from committee members. They asked me about NCMPA1 and NCEMPA’s debt and when it will be paid off.

    You can view the presentation here. 
     
    At the close of the meeting, committee members asked for future presentations from the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the Southeastern Electric Reliability Council (SERC), specifically to discuss how they are protecting the electrical grid from the threat of terrorists and natural disasters.

    We work every day to add value to our members. Representing you at the General Assembly is only one way we do that. I was pleased to be a part of the committee meeting and appreciate our lawmaker’s interest in North Carolina’s electric system.

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  • 2103 Annual Conference Address

    Graham's Annual Conference address is summarized in Storify. Click here to view.

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  • Connecting in D.C.

    Nearly 50 years ago, ElectriCities was founded to protect the interests of public power communities. Back in 1965, that meant concerns in Congress, at the Federal Power Commission (now FERC) and locally at the North Carolina General Assembly. Today, we continue to represent public power before all of these entities – and protecting our future while connecting with our stakeholders is one of our strategic elements.

    A couple of weeks ago, I went to Washington, D.C. and met with the North Carolina Congressional delegation. We were fortunate to be able to meet with nearly all of our legislators or their staff. We were there to discuss key issues that are critically important to our members.

    First, tax-exempt financing continues to be a concern. We understand that deficit reduction is important to the administration and Congress, yet we continue to urge Congress to preserve access to tax-exempt financing. We took with us resolutions passed locally by 20 of our members. All of the resolutions encourage Congress to preserve tax-exempt financing, the lifeblood of local governments, school districts and state governments. You can read more about this issue in my March 18 blog post.

    Other issues we discussed with our delegation were cyber-security, encouraging Congress to support information sharing between government and the electric industry; and our concern over EPA’s recent push to regulate coal ash as a hazardous waste.

     

    We plan trips like this several times a year, sometimes joining forces with the American Public Power Association and sometimes on our own. We appreciate the support of our Congressional delegation and the time they gave us to share our concerns.

     

    It’s one of our core functions and one of the primary ways we deliver value – both back in 1965 and today.


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  • Riding the Wave of Retail’s “Perfect Storm”

    Part of ElectriCities’ core purpose is promoting a more successful future for our citizens. An important component of that purpose is sparking economic growth in the communities we serve.

    Oftentimes we think of economic development as large-scale negotiations that bring new manufacturing operations to town. While that is certainly an important part of our economic development activities, much more is needed for a balanced strategy.

    Each year, ElectriCities Economic Development staff evaluates the target industry sectors and how we can influence these industries. Manufacturing is part of that strategy, along with biotechnology, marine trades, plastics and others. For each of these sectors, we reach out to decision makers and influencers through trade shows, direct communications and industry events. Recently, we added retail as a target sector. And for good reason.

    In addition to being a major local economic impact factor, retail development is a quality of life issue. Citizens want retail establishments, such as grocery stores and restaurants, in their hometown. Strong communities have a strong retail presence – that’s where ElectriCities comes in.

    ElectriCities has a strong focus on retail growth, with staff dedicated to this segment. We recently led a group of member communities to the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) RECon trade show. We joined 33,000 attendees, all focused on retail development. At the show, city officials talked directly with site selectors and retailers about bringing new investments to their hometowns. We assisted by making these connections and providing research the site selectors need to make expansion decisions.

    Overall, the RECon show created tremendous excitement and interest in public power communities. And we learned quite a bit about the current outlook in the retail sector. For the first time in several years, the mood in retail is now positive and moving forward. What’s more, we learned that big box retailer growth will remain slow, with growth coming in the form of smaller concepts focused on personal care and service. We also learned that more distribution centers will be needed in order to fulfill customer demands – which presents a great opportunity for North Carolina, thanks to our ideal locations and excellent highway system.

    All in all, developers and retail brokers came to our booth in record numbers, asking about a specific city or region from our membership. We know this means we have even more work to do in order to help our members prepare for the “perfect storm” that’s brewing in the retail industry. And our economic development team is up for that challenge.   


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  • Reliability - You Can Count on NC Public Power

    Keeping your power on is the most fundamental thing we do. And recent industry data shows that NC Public Power communities do it better.

    There are two ways to measure reliability: how often the power goes out, and how long it takes for it to come back on. Last year, ElectriCities members out-performed the state’s investor-owned utilities on both counts.

    As you can see from the following charts, NC Public Power communities had 50 percent fewer outages than Progress Energy and restored power (on average) nearly 90 minutes quicker than Duke Energy.

    Average Outages per Year
    Average Restoration Times (Minutes)
    Source: Public Staff Electric Division of the North Carolina Utilities Commission

     

    The impact of our increased reliability is significant.

    On a personal level, it means fewer headaches and hassles for families trying to cook dinner or complete projects around the house. For businesses, the impact is much greater. Power outages can kill productivity — office workers can’t work on their computers, manufacturing lines come to a halt, and shop owners are forced to close their doors.

    Based on economic studies, we project the increased reliability enjoyed by our members has a conservative value of more than $25 million over the course of the year. That’s a powerful figure, and it demonstrates just how important it is to keep the lights on.

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  • Preserving Our Ability to Access Affordable Financing

    Thus far in 2013, our country has faced two major economic hurdles– first, the showdown over the fiscal cliff in early January and now the imposition of massive federal budget cuts known as the Sequestration.   Later this month Congress will also have to pass a measure to continue funding of the government after March 27, when the current funding runs out. Later this summer, Congress will face the issue of raising the legally authorized borrowing limit.

    As Congress debates the fiscal realities of budget cuts and ongoing budget deficits, reviewing and revising the tax code has emerged as a priority. Included in that debate is a proposal to eliminate or modify the ability of municipal agencies to issue tax-exempt financing allowed to fund capital projects.

    First, what is tax-exempt financing and why does ElectriCities care about it? Tax-exempt financing is a common term to describe the long-standing position of the federal government that allows certain municipal bond interest to be exempt from federal taxation. The exemption from taxation of interest income derived from debt issued by state and local governments gives municipal bond investors an added benefit for their investment and allows municipalities to pay a lower interest rate on debt. 

    The lower interest rate frees up municipal budgets for new initiatives, instead of paying higher amounts to meet debt service on projects of local benefit. If the tax-exempt financing provision is eliminated, our costs will be higher. The same is true for municipalities and counties across the state and country.

    A recent report from a coalition of municipal entities says state and local governments financed more than $1.65 trillion of infrastructure investments over the last decade through the tax-exempt bond market. Public power entities financed nearly $147 billion during this time. (Read the full report.) In fact, nearly 75 percent of all capital infrastructure projects started in 2012 were financed using tax exempt debt.

    The prospect of losing the favorable tax treatment of state and local debt issuances is extremely serious for our municipal Power Agencies and our members, as well as state governments and school districts. We have been actively following this issue as it has emerged over the past year. We are working on this issue both individually and as part of a coalition with the American Public Power Association and the Large Public Power Council. We will continue to monitor Congressional debate on the topic and will be regularly communicating with lawmakers about the significance of this issue.

    These changes could threaten our financial stability, one of our corporate strategic elements. We owe it to our members and public power customers to work against any changes to tax-exempt financing that will raise our costs. Tax-exempt financing is the life-blood of public power communities and we will do everything in our power to preserve it. 

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  • The Power to Grow

    The beginning of 2013 brought mixed signals for the U.S. economy and continued economic recovery. Once again this year, we know that attracting new industries to North Carolina will be highly competitive.

    The key: figuring out how to set ourselves apart from the competition, whether it’s halfway around the globe or right down the street. 

    In more than 70 communities across North Carolina, public power is one way we can distinguish ourselves. Public power is known for its reliability, outstanding customer service and local control. In many instances, that local control gives us the flexibility to develop custom solutions for new and expanding companies.  

    ElectriCities of North Carolina works closely with member communities to attract economic development investments and create new jobs. We promote public power communities in national advertising and direct mail campaigns, meet with prospects at trade shows targeting key industry sectors, and work in partnership with local economic development organizations.   

    Those efforts are paying dividends: the last two weeks of 2012 brought news of more than 500 new jobs with $142 million in investment for NC Public Power.

    North Carolina has a lot to offer prospective companies. By continually investing in infrastructure to deliver reliable power and by supporting local initiatives to develop a skilled workforce, our public power communities are proving that we have the power to grow.


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