Conor Harrison and Scott Kirsch (Faculty Advisor). Some people in eastern North Carolina are currently experiencing electricity rates nearly twice as high as those in the rest of the state. This project seeks to understand the historical and geographical roots of these rates, as well as to examine the development of electric utilities within the segregated Jim Crow South. The researcher argues electric utilities enabled local elites to maintain power and exclude certain groups from the benefits of electricity. This, in turn, has contributed to the persistent uneven development that has continued to plague much of eastern North Carolina. The researcher deploys two geographic concepts not previously used to analyze electricity infrastructure: the spatial fix and territory. The spatial fix captures an electric utility’s need for large up-front investment in infrastructure, constantly increasing revenues, and the persistent threat posed by the devaluation of assets. These conditions have led to the attempt to create a geographic fix to the problem, which is the electric utility service territory. While service territories initially eased the challenges posed by the threat of devaluation, it was only a temporary solution. The investigator asserts that the uneven prices that some towns are currently experiencing, as well as the continuing uneven development of eastern North Carolina, are a direct reflection of the limits of territory as a geographic solution.
This research was published in Local Environment: The International Journal of Justice and Sustainability.