Poll shows strong anti-monopoly sentiment across political spectrum
A recent poll shows that 78 percent of North Carolina voters are tired of suffering under the rate-hiking, anti-competitive control of Duke Energy and its subsidiary Progress Energy. And by a margin of two-to-one, they want utilities to be required to prioritize energy-saving programs and renewable power over building new nuclear and fracking-gas power plants.
The news comes during a year when US utilities have been hit with a rapidly shifting marketplace that led the electric power industry’s trade group to warn of a corporate death spiral for those who fail to adapt to the falling costs of distributed solar energy, along with other market changes and innovations.
Duke Energy boasts it has invested $3 billion in wind and solar power, but almost all of that is outside its monopoly-controlled states such as the Carolinas. Here, Duke’s corporate old-schoolers still hope to lock out competition and innovation and keep trying to build nuclear and fracking-gas power plants.
As Duke scrambles over decisions critical to its corporate existence, the death spiral is well underway in Europe. Some of the largest electric providers in Germany and other countries have already lost vast amounts of corporate value, according to a new story in the business magazine The Economist.
One fast-growing US trend is that of well-financed solar companies installing rooftop systems at no cost to businesses and homeowners, and then sharing the solar savings with the customers. Duke-Progress have for years blocked such “third party sales” in the Carolinas. But pressure is mounting for opening competition as a number of energy companies – renewable and traditional – want to compete in the region and as customers learn of innovations that protect their pocketbooks and environment.
It’s likely that Duke Energy’s third rate hike in four years – approved since the April poll – will only enhance the call for customer choice. Highlights of the poll conducted by Public Policy Polling for NC WARN and the Consumers Against Rate Hikes alliance:
- 78% of NC voters believe that the best way to manage electricity rates is to allow increased competition, open the market, increase consumer choice or de-monopolize Duke Energy and Progress Energy.
- 75% said there should be more options for providing and purchasing electricity from other companies to ensure that rates are competitive.
- 72% would support legislation that would create more market competition by allowing other energy companies besides Duke Energy and Progress Energy to sell power directly to consumers.
- 65% would be more likely to support an elected official who supported legislation to increase competition and provide more consumer choice when it comes to electricity.
- Voters agree 2-to-1 that Duke Energy and Progress Energy should be required to prioritize energy efficiency, weatherization and access to renewable energy over building new nuclear plants and fracking for natural gas.
Results collected and reported by Public Policy Polling from a survey of 504 North Carolina voters on April 12-15, 2013. Of the respondents, 9% self-identified as “very liberal,” 17% as “somewhat liberal,” 31% as “moderate,” 28% as “somewhat conservative,” and 15% as “very conservative.” See full poll results here.