Top Utilities: Power Players For Development


Size counts, but when it comes to making our picks for forward-thinking utilities, so do smart grids, renewable energy and a seat at the table when economic development deals are negotiated.

You can always find the largest utilities in the country—the biggest regional and multi-state power players—on any top utilities list based on installed power capacity. But if you use size as your primary criteria, be prepared to make some last-minute edits to the list: as we were going to press last year with our Editor’s Picks for the utilities sector, Virginia-based Dominion Energy swallowed SCANA in neighboring South Carolina in a $7.9-billion acquisition; earlier this year, Gulf Power was acquired by NextEra Energy.

When BF makes its utilities choices, we’re not just measuring megawatts—we’re looking for the power players who are fast on their feet in embracing new technologies and proactively fine-tuning their sources of energy for a rapidly adjusting market. We’re looking for old-school reliability combined with cutting-edge efficiency. And we’re zeroing in on the players who always seem to have a seat at the table when the deals are cut for the most important economic development projects in their region.

Today’s leading utilities are playing an integral role in the future prosperity of the communities they serve. They’re busy tailoring energy solutions to match the evolving requirements of the 21st century businesses that locations covet as engines of sustainable growth. They’re also playing a leading role in expanding the reach of renewables by delivering green energy at rates that make it competitive in all markets.

And so, without further ado, here are our Editor’s Picks:

In more than 70 cities and towns across North Carolina, homes and businesses are powered by municipally owned utilities. These public power communities have a well-earned reputation for providing safe, reliable electric service and outstanding customer service to more than 1.2 million people in North Carolina—more than the populations of Raleigh and Charlotte combined. In fact, a statewide survey of 3,000 customers in North Carolina conducted in 2018 found that 82.3 percent of residents are satisfied with public power.

“Time and time again, public power communities throughout North Carolina have demonstrated the value that comes with owning and operating their own electric system,” said Roy Jones, CEO of ElectriCities, a non-profit organization that serves public power communities in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. “Throughout 2018, a number of our member communities saw a direct economic development impact from being locally owned. Businesses throughout the country and the world recognize and appreciate the value that public power provides and find comfort in knowing their power demands will always be met. We look forward to seeing what 2019 has in store for public power in North Carolina.”

Public power providers in North Carolina—and across the nation—consistently outperform investor-owned utilities when it comes to reliability. In fact, public power experiences fewer power outages, and gets the power restored more quickly than others. A prime example of this ability to provide exceptional reliability was demonstrated during the 2018 hurricane season. Three days after Hurricane Florence made landfall, 80 percent of Fayetteville customers and 83 percent of New Bern customers had their power restored. These were two of the hardest hit communities. And 26 member communities reported no outages at all.

ElectriCities is proud to be the energy behind public power. ElectriCities is a not-for-profit membership organization that consolidates many of the administrative services needed by 70 municipally owned electric utilities operating in North Carolina. ElectriCities was formed to protect the interests of North Carolina public power communities and to provide a unified voice on state and federal issues affecting public power.

In addition, ElectriCities provides customer service and safety training, emergency and technical assistance, communications, economic development, government affairs and legal services. Through consolidation of these services, members save their customers the expense of administering these functions locally.

Economic development is a huge driver in North Carolina public power communities. The benefits of public power have helped our communities attract and retain businesses, adding a growing workforce throughout the state.

Public power communities throughout North Carolina saw some big economic development wins during the third and fourth quarters of 2018. Novo Nordisk, a multinational pharmaceutical company, expanded in Clayton with a $22 million investment, creating 22 jobs. Hanesbrands signed a lease for a 340,000-square-foot distribution center in High Point, paving the way for 200 new jobs. AirBoss of America Corp. received a performance-based grant from the One North Carolina fund to help facilitate the expansion of their existing 150,000-square-foot rubber compounding facility in Scotland Neck, creating 42 additional jobs. Enforge, which is a manufacturer of steel-formed suspension and steering assemblies for automotive companies, invested $4 million to expand its existing production plant in Albemarle, creating 44 jobs. Additionally, Sysco Foods invested $11.6 million into an expansion in Selma.

An in-house economic development team serves ElectriCities’ member communities with everything from site selection to providing demographic and market reports. Visit to learn more and follow ElectriCities on Twitter @ElectriCitiesNC, Facebook @ElectriCities and Instagram @ncpublicpower.

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