Triad city beat | Winston-Salem city leaders talk sustainability: electricity prices, food insecurity and regulatory changes for native plants

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During the City of Winston-Salem’s May 14 commission meeting, city leaders and staff discussed changes in the city’s electricity use, yields from a hydroponic greenhouse and new rules on how residents can garden with native plants.

Electricity changes

On January 15, electric monopoly Duke Energy raised its prices statewide, impacting customers at both the municipal and individual consumer levels.

The city of Winston-Salem is bracing for an increase in electricity prices. Last year, the city paid $10 million in total electricity costs. This year, the cost is expected to be nearly $12 million. Next year they are expected to rise even more to almost $14 million. By 2027 they will reach $15 million.

These rising prices demonstrate the nationwide increase Duke Energy implemented this year, which justified the increase as a means to “make the electric grid more resilient to outages and enable faster power restoration,” according to the company’s January press release. Still, some changes can help the city reduce energy consumption.

The city plans to switch to LEDs for street lighting during the next budget cycle, a move that is expected to reduce energy consumption from about 116.6 million kWh (kilowatt hours) to about 106.5 million kWh.

Last year, city council members approved a $607.8 million budget. Funding for this is collected from residents in the form of property taxes. The property tax rate increased by 2.5 cents last year.

In addition to higher property taxes, individual customers are also faced with their own electricity price increases. Rates for a typical Duke customer using 1,000 kWh per month increased by $10.04 on January 15, increasing the monthly cost from $130.29 to $140.33. Additionally, the monthly rate will increase by $4 each year for the next two years, reaching $148.62 in January 2026.

Combating food insecurity

Kimberly Park’s hydroponic greenhouse, which drew some criticism from community activists for its more than $2 million price tag, is making progress in bringing food to families in need.

During the first quarter of this year, the farm produced 1,998 pounds of food – worth more than $10,300 – and planted more than 16,000 seeds; This can feed 445 families per week. The farm is currently managed by the nonprofit organization Help Our People Eat.

The city is also preparing a food resilience planning document and starting a conversation about food deserts, food hazards, what to do in the event of a food shortage, and more.

Join the conversation by taking the survey or attending an event:

  • June 14 at 4pm at Hanes Hosiery Community Center, 501 Reynolds Blvd
  • June 20 at noon at Rupert Bell Neighborhood Center, 1501 Mt Zion Pl
  • June 26 at 7pm at Sprague Street Park Community Center, 1350 E Sprague St
  • July 11 at 6 p.m. in the City Hall Committee Room, 101 North Main Street Room 239
  • July 15 at 5:30 PM via Zoom

Natural landscapes

In March, city leaders approved an ordinance that allows residents to create natural landscape areas in their yards using native and pollinator-friendly plants. Natural areas are permitted at a distance of one and a half meters from the plot edge. Volunteers will help create and maintain a demonstration garden at Second Street Park to show residents what a “well-maintained” natural landscape could look like, according to the city’s Sustainability Director, Dr. Shaleen Miller. A grant from the Forsyth Audubon Society will invest $3,500 in the demonstration garden.

In 2018, the city joined forces with Bee City USA. Washington and Reynolds Parks each have two Bee City pollinator beds. There are almost 3.6 million square meters of habitats, such as meadows and gardens, spread across the city. Next spring the flowers for the Happy Hill meadow project should be in bloom.