By Gracia O’Neill

North Carolina faces a critical decision on the growing costs and environmental damage caused by energy production. Announcing a proposed major rate hike recently, to average over $130 per year, per household, Duke Energy says it’s to supply “reliable energy,” which means they’ll generate and sell more power. North Carolina’s utilities want to build $35-40 billion worth of new coal and nuclear power plants, with Duke’s rate increase being a first installment on increases that could total over 50 percent for construction. That approach assumes ever-increasing power demand, despite recent data reflecting flat or even decreasing consumption.

That’s why more than 30 North Carolina social justice, religious, consumer and environmental groups instead support an approach that would create hundreds or even thousands of "green" jobs and crank down our demand for power, through a state-wide energy efficiency program called NC SAVE$ ENERGY.

Energy efficiency is the fastest, cleanest and cheapest way to control energy bills, and the best route to economic, environmental and health benefits. Efficiency costs less than one-fourth as much as new nuclear power and creates more new jobs. Every county has thousands of homes in urgent need of weatherization. Last year, the United Way's western North Carolina “2-1-1” helpline fielded more requests for assistance paying utility bills than any other service.

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