Wilson's electric system began more than a century ago when residents of the young town voted to issue bonds for an “Electric Light Plant” on December 15, 1890. That day, 219 people out of 227 voted to move ahead with the project.
The town issued bonds to pay for the new plant on November 19, 1892. The next month, the search began for a building site. (The current Amtrak facility is close to the old site.)
A few months later, in 1893, the plant was ready. At a board meeting, the town ordered that the lighting of oil lamps be stopped. Mayor George D. Green was to collect the old lamps and sell them.
The people of the town gathered in the cold weather to see the new street lamps come on for the first time. It was a red-letter day for Wilson 's 3,000 citizens.
During a commissioners meeting on June 4, 1894, Mayor Green said, “It is generally conceded that we have one of the best lighted towns in the state and under our incandescent system the best lights are furnished to our people at about two thirds the rates charged in neighboring towns.”
These pioneers had envisioned electricity as a means to light the town's streets, stores and plants. They had not yet realized what a driving force electricity would be for machinery.
Wilson grew quickly, so quickly that in 1914 commissioners authorized plans for a new plant. The new plant on North Pine Street was completed in 1915 behind Maplewood Cemetery.
Demand continued to grow, and by 1918, an expansion was necessary. Electric distribution was still a relatively new technology, but people were beginning to use it more and more. Wilson's system was expanded again that year. Other towns asked that Wilson supply their power.
Progress continued. In 1921, builders completed a new hydroelectric plant that used water to generate electricity. The new plant was built on Contentnea Creek at Wiggins Mill. (Today, U.S. 301 runs near the site.)
The system continued to be expanded and improved during the 1930s and 1940s, especially throughout Wilson County.
In the 1950s Wilson's leaders decided to supplement the town's power supply by purchasing some electricity from Carolina Power and Light, an investor-owned utility (now Progress Energy). In the early 1960s Wilson decided to buy all of its power from CP&L and concentrate on electric distribution. The old generating plant was just too small to keep up with the growing community.
In the 1970s, America fell into an energy crisis. Trouble in the Middle East , where crude oil was collected, forced up energy prices here at home. Wilson, along with dozens of other N.C. cities, became increasingly worried that CP&L would not be able to meet demand. It costs money to build and maintain power plants, and that money was hard to come by amidst high oil prices.
To guarantee a steady stream of electricity, Wilson joined 31 other cities, including Greenville, Clayton, Apex and Rocky Mount, to help CP&L expand its electric generation. They formed a non-profit group called the N.C. Eastern Municipal Power Agency (NCEMPA). The group helped CP&L finish the Shearon Harris Nuclear Power Plant near Raleigh and the Brunswick Nuclear Power Plant near Wilmington. Today, NCEMPA owns part of those plants, as well as parts of several coal-fire plants.
Today, we work diligently to deliver competitive costs to our valued customers. Wilson Energy (the City of Wilson's electric and gas divisions) works one-on-one with local industries to find cost-saving improvements. For those who invest in co-generation technology, we can offer electric costs that are similar to or lower than regional investor owned utilities. Typically, cogeneration equipment has a three-year payback. The savings last much longer. Industry is important to Wilson Energy. We know our local industries personally and do all that we can to give them reliable service and competitive rates.
We are constantly looking for ways to keep costs low. Today, 82% of our costs are for purchased power. That leaves about 18% for our local operating costs, or 1.4 cents per kilowatt hour. That's less than most electricity providers in the state, including those in the private sector. We run a lean electric operation.
Wilson Energy has a proud record of reliability. A recent survey showed that 89% of our customers are satisfied with our service.
We will continue to offer reliable service and an abundant supply as Wilson continues to grow.