Energy Democracy in North Carolina

North Carolina, like the rest of the American South, is a state where electric utilities like Duke Energy enjoy monopoly control, leaving customers with no choice over who provides their electricity.

In this outdated model, utilities serve both customers AND shareholders, a conflict that leaves N.C. customers paying outrageous bills and rewards shareholders with higher profits. The utilities have little incentive to invest in clean energy, keeping us locked in a polluting fossil fuel system that exacerbates the growing impacts of climate change.

Powerful utilities like Duke are also able to exert undue influence over elected officials who are supposed to be acting in the public interest, but instead are doing the monopolies’ bidding.

Reforming Rural Electric Cooperatives

In a large part of rural North Carolina that Duke Energy does not serve, 26 electric cooperatives provide electricity to the local residents. Electric co-ops are owned by the residents and businesses that they serve (also known as member-owners). While a few co-ops generate some of their own electricity, most co-ops purchase their electricity from monopoly utilities such as Duke Energy.

In many parts of the United States, co-ops are on the forefront of the clean energy transition, investing in and providing equitable access to clean energy, building sustainable workforces, and even expanding internet access to hard-to-reach rural areas. But most of the state’s rural electric co-ops are undemocratic, and not taking advantage of their unique potential, and in fact are working hard to suppress these opportunities and block their members from having a say in decisions on key energy policy and governance issues.

To change this, our team provides resources to electric co-op members and empowers them to take an active role in the decision-making processes of their co-op. We also offer policy advice, analysis, and other resources for implementing new programs and policy reforms to electric cooperative management.

Blue Ridge Alliance for Clean Energy

The Blue Ridge Alliance for Clean Energy started as a group of local and regional organizations that shared concerns about how local electric utilities in the North Carolina High Country have barely begun the rapid transition to clean energy that is imperative to address the climate crisis.

In February, 2020, BRACE hosted the High Country Energy Justice Summit, an event that brought together community members from Boone, N.C., and the surrounding areas for an intergenerational discussion about our local and state utilities, as well as the Green New Deal.

Play Video