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History of Public Power

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, electricity was slowly making its way to North Carolina's cities and towns. Often, electricity was brought into the area by the city and used primarily to power streetlights to brighten the downtown after dark. Power was generated by coal-fired generators and was produced only during the evening and night hours.

The City of Statesville created the first municipally owned electric utility when it began providing service in 1889. As demand for lighting grew, electricity was brought into citizens' homes. Soon after, new appliances such as the sewing machine, clothes washer and refrigerator were invented to simplify daily chores. At the same time, industry was becoming modernized, and industrial demand for electricity grew accordingly. Cities began to see their electric load grow by leaps and bounds.

What started as a novelty was becoming a full-fledged utility service. During the early 1900s, North Carolina cities were growing quickly. Areas that were little more than a crossroads developed into towns, with citizens who needed electric service. North Carolina's investor-owned utilities were sometimes unwilling to invest in infrastructure to run power lines to outlying areas, so North Carolina's cities and towns stepped in and began to invest in electric transmission to serve North Carolina citizens.

Today, there are over 70 public power communities across the state,serving 535,000 North Carolinians. 51 cities are members of two municipal power agencies: North Carolina Municipal Power Agency Number1 (NCMPA1), serving piedmont and western North Carolina, and the North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency (NCEMPA), serving eastern North Carolina. The remaining public power communities are independent distributors of electricity that buy their power wholesale and transmit it to their customers.

North Carolina's public power communities continue to be strong,vibrant areas in which to work and live. Public power customers benefit from utility policy established by officials who live and work where they do. That local control, with local operation, benefits customers by allowing electric revenue to stay in the community, enabling public power cities to grow and prosper.

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