Winterville approves final portion of GUC contract
Sunday, January 14, 2018
WINTERVILLE—The Winterville Town Council last month approved the final part of an agreement with Greenville Utilities Commission for the transmission of electricity from NTE Energy.
“NTE is creating a natural gas pipeline. The energy created will move to lines owned and operated by Duke (Progress Energy),” said Winterville Manager Terri Parker. “The lines will run down into Greenville because Duke does not have an access point in Winterville. The energy will then run on Greenville’s lines into Winterville.”
The town will receive electricity from the deal, according to Winterville’s assistant town manager Ben Williams. The town will not be receiving or paying for natural gas, he said.
As part of the contract, the town of Winterville is responsible for paying a share of the cost for improvements to the Greenville Utilities Commission system.
“Since we are a percentage-based consumer using their system, we will be required to pay for some of the upgrades GUC deems necessary,” Williams said.
Councilman Johnny Moye asked about dispute resolution.
“What if they begin making improvements that are not required? Would we have to pay for that as well?” Moye asked.
Williams said, “We have a dispute resolution clause in the contract. We would have a set amount of time to work out the issue before taking tougher measures.”
If the council believes Greenville Utilities Commission is unfairly spending the town’s payments on non-necessary improvements, the entities would meet and begin to work through the issue together, Williams said. If no solution is found, mediators will be brought in to oversee the hearings. If no solution is found after mediation, arbitrators may be called in, followed by the sides seeking injunctive relief, via the courts, Williams added.
When asked what the agreement means to Winterville residents, Parker said the total savings are being calculated.
“We are working on determining the cost of running our system here in Winterville, that includes labor, operating cost and other pieces. Once we determine the total operating cost, we can compare them to the previous deal and determine the savings residents will see,” Parker said.
The process to determine operating cost has been underway for three months and has made steady progress, Williams added. He compared the pre-calculated bill in January under the new agreement with the past agreement.
Councilman John Hill via telephone conference made a motion to approve the agreement, which Councilman Tony Moore seconded. The motion passed 4-0. Councilwoman Veronica Roberson was not in attendance.
The agreement was to become effective Jan. 1 and run through Dec 31, 2027, but Parker was recently informed Greenville Utilities Commission’s board of directors, which met several days after the Winterville Town Council approved the draft transmission agreement that Greenville Utilities Commission formatted, voted to not approve it.
“I am quite perplexed the board did not approve the draft that they established,” Parker told the Winterville Town Council.
Parker was scheduled to meet with Greenville Utilities Commission’s general manager Tuesday. Results of the meeting were unavailable at press.
Per state law, Greenville Utilities Commission cannot “cut off” Winterville’s transmission line, Parker said.
The town is continuing to receive power, but the town “does not have an executed agreement” in place, he said.
The town now pays approximately $16,000 a month to transmit its power from Duke to Greenville’s lines and an additional $16,000 a month to transmit its power from Greenville’s lines to the town’s lines, according to Williams.
The town’s agreement with Duke Progress Energy to receive electricity ended Dec. 31, 2017 and the new NTE natural gas 20-year purchase agreement began Jan. 1.
The town will receive its power from an NTE plant being built in Kings Mountain. The town of Winterville is one of five initial municipality members of NTE. They are stakeholders in the operation and hold a seat and vote on the operating committee.
The NTE lines will link into the Duke lines and transmit electricity to Greenville Utilities’ substation on McGregor Downs Road. From this point, Greenville Utilities’ lines will carry the power to Winterville’s lines on Fire Tower Road, which will then transmit the power to its customers.
“I’m not interested in additional costs,” Parker said regarding the transmission line agreement. “I am surprised (by GUC board’s action), but I will continue to work through this to determine what’s going on.”
The GUC draft transmission agreement states an approximate $22,019.85 per month fee incurred to the town of Winterville.
The Winterville Town Council previously approved the 10-year Duke transmission agreement and the NTE 20-year agreement. The Greenville Utilities Commission transmission agreement is the last piece of the puzzle.
**Editor’s Note: Group Editor Angela Harne contributed to this report.