Utilities

A picture of running tap water.
malla_mi / Flickr

Raleigh's Public Utilities Department wants the City Council to consider raising water rates to cover infrastructure upgrades.

But even though the area's population is growing, the city is not getting more revenue through water use. Carman says conservation minded citizens using more efficient appliances have cut household water use almost in half.

Frost design
RachelEllen via Flickr/Creative Commons

Forecasters are predicting another cold winter. 

The North Carolina Division of Social Services is accepting applications for the state's Low Income Energy Assistance Program.

Director Wayne Black says it's meant to help seniors, veterans and people with disabilities pay their heating bills.

“Demand is there every year for these programs, and we expect that to be the same this coming years as well,” Black said. “Obviously, how cold the winter is would have some impact as well in terms of persons coming in.”

A picture of Crabtree Creek flowing into Neuse River, at Anderson Point Park, Raleigh
bobistraveling / Flickr

The city of Raleigh and Johnston County are considering sharing water resources as both communities prepare for exponential population growth.

The county and the city have asked a water planning firm to evaluate the benefits and feasibility of working together to secure new water sources.

Kenneth Waldroup works in water planning for Raleigh Public Utilities Department. He says Johnston County is situated just down the Neuse River from Raleigh, and it's likely that the municipalities are duplicating planning efforts.

 Image of a branch that has been subjected to freezing rain within the previous 24 hours. Note the branch is completly encapsulated in ice. Some melting has occurred as temperatures were around 0 Celsius
David Park, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada on 27 Dec 2009. / Wikipedia Creative Commons

While the state transportation department is already out salting roads, utility companies are closely monitoring the weather forecast today.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Ryan Ellis said light snow is likely this afternoon, getting heavy tomorrow into Thursday. By tomorrow afternoon, he said, ice will coat much of the state.

Jane Pritchard is a spokeswoman for the North Carolina Association of Electric Cooperatives. She said it would take a heavy snowfall to mess with power lines, but just a half-inch of ice can do a lot of damage.

A solar panel, renewable energy
NCSU/CSE

Renewable energy generators have channeled hundreds of millions of kilowatt hours into the North Carolina power grid. That's since the NC GreenPower program was founded 10 years ago.

The initiative collects donations from companies, citizens and utility customers to buy renewable energy and diversify the state's power grid.

NC Solar Center Director Steve Kalland is on the board for NC GreenPower. He said the program has also helped utilities warm up to renewable power providers. 

NCSU students study an array of solar panels on top of the NSF FREEDM Systems Center.
Marc Hall / North Carolina State University

Raleigh might soon have a group-purchasing program that would make it cheaper for residents to install solar panels on their homes. North Carolina Solar Center Director Steve Kalland  says solar power is popular among state utilities. They save money buying the costly technology in bulk. Kalland says homeowners are also interested in using cheaper, greener energy.

"The opportunity to do this has been somewhat constrained in North Carolina because the cost of these smaller-scale projects is somewhat higher than the large-scale projects," Kalland says.

Aqua NC will file for its 3rd rate increase in 5 years.
Wikimedia Commons

The state Utilities Commission is considering a proposal that would allow private water companies to raise rates in some cases without public hearings. 

Under the new rule, utilities could implement rate hikes several times a year without public input, as long as they do not amount to an increase of more than 5 percent. 

State lawmakers passed the new rule without opposition last session, but the Utilities Commission has to decide if it's in the public's interest before it goes into effect. 

Aqua NC will file for its 3rd rate increase in 5 years.
Wikimedia Commons

The private water utility Aqua North Carolina says it plans to file for its third rate increase in five years.  The company notified the state Utilities Commission last week that it will file a formal request in August.  It's not yet clear how much Aqua will ask to raise its rates.  The company last requested an increase of 19 percent in 2011, and the Utilities Commission approved an increase of about 5 percent.

NC State House
NCGA

Lawmakers in the state House have passed a controversial bill that would extend water and sewer lines to a mixed-use development outside Durham city limits. The Durham city council recently voted against providing services to the 167 acre 751 project. But its developers have lobbied state legislators to get access, saying the plan will bring jobs to the area. Republican representative Tim Moore says he believes in the spirit of the planned development.

Customers of Cary's public water utility can now monitor how many gallons they use on an hourly basis.  The town invested $172,553 in a system that updates water usage online.  Cary Financial Director Karen Mills says the new system is meant to make customers more aware of how much water they're using or wasting.

"They can see what's going on with their usage, understanding, for example, their irrigation usage if they have an automated system; when it's running, how long it's running," Mills says.

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