Westar Energy is seeking the permission to start offering their customers prepaid electricity service in Kansas. The company filed an application with Kansas Corporation Commission but a decision is yet to be made. If the request is granted, Westar will have to begin the prepaid service on a small scale under a pilot project with as many as 1000 customers.
Customers who opt for the service would not be required to make a security deposit; however, they would have to pay Westar $4 a month for the privilege. In order to qualify for the prepaid service, customers should not owe Westar more than $1000, be currently taking residential service and their home should also be equipped with advance metering. An email address is also necessary to foster communication with the company.
As the cold weather rule prohibits service shut offs during the winter, prepaid customers who owe the company money could see their energy usage reduced to a minimum, as Westar’s advanced metering system is able to throttle back energy usage. In addition, customers who use more electricity than they pay for will have the outstanding amount debited from future payments.
While prepaid isn’t prevalent in North Carolina, certain municipalities and coops have begun experimenting with the idea. In other markets, such as Houston Texas, prepaid electricity plans have become the norm.
It is expected that by 2015 natural gas drilling will be permitted in North Carolina. By Spring or Summer of 2014, preliminary drilling for core samples could begin. Following that, the public will be allowed to comment on the Mining and Energy Commission’s regulatory proposals and recommendations will then be forwarded to the General Assembly. If the recommendations are approved, it means the drilling moratorium could be lifted by March 2015.
The fracking process requires water, chemicals and sand to be blasted into shale which breaks it up and releases the gas that is trapped within. As a result, fracking opponents are raising question in regards to where the drilling companies would get the high volume of water required for the process. This question is quite valid, as a few towns in Texas were left without water as a result of fracking.
Officials of the Mining and Energy Commission sought to allay the fears of fracking opponents by highlighting the positives of fracking. Some of the benefits highlighted included a growth of tax base in counties, more jobs which will reduce the State’s unemployment rate, and an increase in the median family income by approximately 50 percent.
According to figures released by SNL Energy, the United States solar energy development is growing at record pace and is expected to exceed the 1675 megawatts that was built in 2012. This record development is as a result of falling costs of solar construction.
North Carolina is ranked third among the pioneers of solar development with 803 megawatts. California tops the charts as the state with the highest number of projects under construction or in advanced development with 6,047 megawatts. Nevada ranks second with 1,056 megawatts.
Four of the 10 largest projects completed in the quarter were built in the North Carolina. The 5 megawatt projects were built by Strata Solar. The state also ranked highly in prospective projects. Plans have been announced by Sun Energy1 and the Sustainable Energy Development Corp for three projects totaling 52 mega watts that could come on line this year. These three projects are also ranked in the top 10.
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Due to a state law passed in 2012, fracking is prohibited until 2015 when it is expected that drilling regulations will be finalized. Despite this, a new drilling company based in Texas, known as Tar Heel Triassic Resources is already making plans to conduct seismic testing in Lee County. There are however concerns that the financial instability of one of the board members at Tar Heel Triassic Resources may encourage fracking opponents in the area.
Tar Heel Triassic Resources is a relatively unknown group in drilling circles and records show that it is not a registered corporation in North Carolina. In fact, the board of directors include Texas residents, Alex Alexandrou and Phil Barnett. Both Alexandrou and Barnet have interests in gas companies in Texas. Federal Court records indicate that Barnet filed for Bankruptcy in 2005 and there were accusations by a court trustee that he misrepresented his financial records.
Although preliminary estimates indicate that there is enough oil to power North Carolina for another five years, fears are surfacing among fracking opponents that the limited supply of gas may attract unstable drilling companies.
The 1.9 million customers served by Duke Carolinas will see an increase in their bills, as the company was granted a 4.5 percent rate increase by the National Utilities Commission. This is the third rate increase since 2009. The company will use the rate increase to pay for new coal-fired unit and a natural gas-fueled plant.
Duke Carolinas made a request for an increase of $446 million but the National Utilities Commission only granted the company $205 million. In addition, the company received an approval for a 10.2 percent return on equity despite their request for a 11.2 percent return.
In light of the approval for a rate increase for the electricity provider, an appeal is likely to be made on behalf of consumers for a change in rates by Attorney General of North Carolina, Roy Cooper. The Attorney General appealed Duke Carolinas’ last rate hike and was victorious.
Duke Carolinas is prohibited from requesting another increase in rates for another two years. Agencies that assist customers struggling to pay their energy bills will also receive a $10 million donation from the company.
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