Conservation advocates have long complained that the system is rigged to reward electric utilities and their customers for wasting energy.
So conservationists have come up with an alternative: Charge heavy users of electricity a higher rate than those who use less, not unlike the concept of progressive taxation.
Such a proposal has been introduced in the N.C. General Assembly on behalf of the Canary Coalition, a group in Sylva, about 300 miles west of Raleigh and 50 miles west of Asheville. It's not clear if the proposal can gain any traction in the state legislature.
"It would raise peoples' rates who don't do anything to conserve in energy efficiency," said Avram Friedman, the Canary Coalition's executive director.