Op-Ed by Bobby Jones and Ayo Wilson
North Carolina’s electricity system is broken, and the only way to fix it is to end Duke Energy’s state-approved monopoly control.
Based in Charlotte, Duke provides 90% of our state’s electricity. For too long, its executives have abused their monopoly privilege and the people of North Carolina have paid the price.
The Dan River coal ash fiasco made more North Carolinians keenly aware that Duke Energy executives have long disregarded our safety and pocketbooks. Burning coal, fracked “natural” gas and re-burning poisonous coal ash are devastating communities by polluting our air, our drinking water and our rivers. Cancer, respiratory and heart disease, autism and early deaths have taken up permanent residence, as have never-ending rate hikes that force families to choose between medicine, food, heat and electricity.
All this use of fossil fuels is adding to the severity and frequency of hurricanes and other storms that are challenging us all. So-called 500-year floods are repeatedly devastating eastern North Carolina’s communities and food crops, and causing leakage from already-damaging toxic coal ash and hog waste pits.
The building of new fossil fuel power plants makes massive profit for Duke leaders, who strategically share it with elected and civic officials so they will favor Duke’s interests over ours. This toxic “monopoly money” is a moral decay that erodes the basic fabric of our democracy.
The Duke Energy monopoly also stifles the development of solar and wind energy. Its attack on competition and fair play in the marketplace hurts all North Carolinians, particularly communities on the frontlines of hurricanes, coal ash and hog waste. It deprives us of cheaper and cleaner electricity and the opportunity for thousands of good renewable energy jobs that could be spreading across the state.
Instead, Duke’s influence money keeps the rate increases coming year after year by promoting construction of the infamous Atlantic Coast fracked gas pipeline, dozens of unneeded gas-burning power plants, and Duke’s ridiculous “grid improvement” scheme.
States with competitive electricity markets are outperforming monopoly states, including ours, in terms of keeping electricity prices down. With prices of solar and wind energy – and ways to store it for later use – dropping, with fossil fuel costs rising and with extreme weather events growing worse, now is the time for North Carolina to make a major justice-based transition away from climate-wrecking coal and gas.
That’s why a diverse coalition of 15 local, state and national groups has launched a vigorous statewide campaign to end Duke’s monopoly control over North Carolina’s energy markets and public officials. The campaign, called Energy Justice NC: End the Duke Monopoly, is set to open this state to electricity competition and do our part to slow the climate crisis.