RALEIGH -

Many people in our area wonder why their electric bills are so high, but Eastern Carolinian's could finally see some relief.

Duke Energy says it's negotiating to buy ownership in nuclear and coal-burning electric power plants that have saddled more than 30 eastern North Carolina municipalities with high electric bills to pay off construction costs.

Duke Energy said Monday that an operating subsidiary is negotiating with the North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency about buying out its share of power plants owned by the former Progress Energy. Duke Energy bought Progress Energy in 2012.

If this deal happens, it could cut power costs for homes and businesses on more than 10 cities in our area.

New Bern Mayor Dana Outlaw said this is an opportunity for all 32 cities to buy 100 percent of their power at lower, wholesale prices.

"This is the first time Duke Progress, the vertical integrated model we have to compete against, has come to the table and said possibly we can buy you out," he explained.

But Mayor Outlaw said this will not happen overnight. He said it may take some time to negotiate.

"This is the first step in the journey to lower electric rates for our citizens," he said.

Duke Energy said in a prepared statement that any deal would take months to negotiate and gain regulatory approval. Duke Energy last week dropped its bid to buy up to 10 percent of a South Carolina nuclear power plant from that state's publicly owned utility after more than two years.