It’s less than it used to be, but most of Western North Carolina’s electricity comes from coal — nearly 60 percent. WNC also gets a higher percentage of its juice from hydropower than the rest of the nation, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
In the U.S. in 2012, coal generated 37.4 percent of all electricity. WNC tracks significantly higher with 58.7 percent of its electricity generation coming from coal, although since 2008, the region has had a 52.8 percent decline in coal power. WNC’s coal comes mostly from mines in Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky and Pennsylvania. Shipments to North Carolina are primarily through rail and truck.
Hydroelectricity, meanwhile, clocked in at 41.2 percent of electricity generation and has been a steady source of power in region. The national average is just 6.8 percent. Thanks to the region’s steep mountain grades and rivers, there are 22 hydroelectric plants in WNC — a significant portion of such plants statewide, according to the WNC Vitality Index.
In North Carolina, coal provides 39.9 percent of electricity generation. Nuclear sources account for 31.1 percent of the total electricity produced in the state, which made North Carolina fifth in the nation for nuclear power generation in 2011.
Although there are three new solar plants in Cherokee County, these produce a comparatively low wattage compared to the other sources.
In 2012, Progress Energy and Duke Energy merged, creating the largest electric utility in the country. It serves North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Indiana and parts of Ohio.
For more information on electricity use in the United States, go to the Energy Information Administration website at eia.gov/electricity.