By Joe Johnson
New River Light and Power is currently under contract with Blue Ridge Energy, who in turn receives their electricity wholesale from Duke Energy. Starting in 2022, NRLP will be starting a new contract with NTE Carolinas LLC, joining other municipalities in the Carolinas who have already switched their energy provider to NTE.
NTE is a company that prides itself on its natural gas-fired plants and its moves into the solar energy business. The company has been on a mission to outbid Duke Energy on its current wholesale energy contracts in the Carolinas; the strategy has worked with 12 out of 12 municipalities approached thus far.
NRLP has decided to make the switch to NTE as their energy provider for two main reasons: the deal with NTE will ultimately save customers money on their energy bills and the deal allows NRLP to provide their customers with the power of choice. “We will be seeing substantial savings with our wholesale cost under the NTE contract,” said Ed Miller, General Manager of NRLP, “The range was anywhere between 10% and 14%; those wholesale savings will be passed on to our customers. One of the big things, other than cost savings to our customers, is that we are able to offer more choices. If we have customers with an appetite for renewables, we will be able to provide that; our customers will be able to choose the fuel that provides electricity to their home. Like in a retail store, you may see value as the lowest possible cost; other customers look at other parameters and see value in where the product originates and they are willing to provide a premium for that. As an electric utility, New River Light and Power wants to provide that choice to our customers as we move forward.”
The choices that NRLP aims to provide with the NTE contract include choosing between natural gas or solar energy to provide electricity to your home. NTE’s natural-gas-fired generation facility, located just outside of Kings Mountain, is the most efficient natural-gas-fired facility on the market. A number of municipalities in the region have joined together in the Request For Proposal with NRLP to seek a wholesale contract with NTE; several of those utilities are already receiving energy from NTE, since their previous contracts expired. Among those municipalities are Kings Mountain, Concord, Winterville, and Greenwood, S.C. “We are not dependent on that one Kings Mountain plant either,” Miller emphasized, “If that plant fails then we have protection from NTE and we can go to the market to buy energy from a number of other sources.”
NRLP also aims to work with NTE to provide renewable energy to customers; the company is in initial talks with NTE to potentially build a solar farm in the High Country that would supply power to NRLP customers. The hypothetical solar farm would have a capacity ranging from 200 to 500 kilowatts with an array producing about 300,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year. “We had restrictions under our existing contract with Blue Ridge and Duke regarding the size of solar infrastructure we could put in our system,” said Miller, “There is no limitation under the NTE contract; we’re currently pursuing the installation of a solar farm so that our customers, once we transition to NTE, will have the ability to choose where their energy comes from. If there is a customer that prefers renewable energy sources, we want to be able to provide that service to them.”
NRLP’s mission to bring the power of choice to its customers also results in a more positive environmental impact; the energy utility already provides customers with tools they can use to reduce their energy consumption, which NRLP believes is the first step in reducing one’s carbon footprint. “Numbers of studies have shown that the first step in reducing carbon is energy conservation,” said Miller, “We at New River believe that providing tools for customers to monitor their usage is the best way to do that. We have an automatic metering infrastructure that allows customers to go online and monitor their usage on 15-minute intervals; they can do that basically in real-time, they don’t have to wait a day to see their energy consumption rate. We have a lot of technology here at New River that we’ve implemented over the past few years and we stand ready to share this with our customers.”
NRLP also introduced a new prepaid service at the end of the summer; the pay-as-you-go plan gives customers a flexible alternative to traditional monthly billing. Instead of paying for all of your electricity at the end of each month, your account balance is reduced daily based on your usage. You can add money to your account anytime you want, in whatever amount you want. Additionally, studies have shown that prepaid service can lead to overall energy usage reductions. In some cases, energy usage fell by as much as 15%. Prepaid service requires no deposit, and customers who switch over to prepaid service can have their existing deposit refunded back to them. For more information about NRLP’s prepaid service, visit https://nrlp.appstate.edu/customer-service/prepaid-service
New River Light and Power’s new contract to buy wholesale energy from NTE Carolinas LLC will provide NRLP customers with a lower monthly electricity bill and a greater level of choice from the local energy utility beginning in 2022. Ultimately, the transition to NTE as an energy provider is in line with NRLP’s goals to provide more renewable energy options and to decrease their carbon footprint; the utility currently provides tools to customers like Intelahome energy consumption monitoring and prepaid services to benefit their customers and reduce environmental impacts as well.
For more information about NRLP visit https://nrlp.appstate.edu/