Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Duke Energy seeks approval to build more power capacity

Duke Energy estimates that peak load growth in the Carolinas will be eight times greater than the company projected two years ago, reflecting major economic development expansions in North Carolina.

That greater demand will require major expansions of the utility’s generating capacity over the next 10 years to ensure reliable service across the two states, the company said in an updated Carolina Resources Plan issued Wednesday. In the filing with state regulators, Duke said it has made significant changes in plans to add natural gas plants, solar generation and storage and potential offshore wind projects off the N.C. coast.

Those plans will be evaluated by the N.C. Utilities Commission and South Carolina Public Service Commission, which oversees the company’s rates and operations.

A highlight of Duke’s plan is to build a second natural gas plant in Person County, adjacent to a coal-powered plant that is being phased out. It will be in addition to a similar natural-gas plant at the site. Duke also wants to add a similar natural gas plant in South Carolina. Further details on the Person County plans are expected to be disclosed Thursday.

Various environmental groups are opposing expansion of natural gas projects such as those outlined by Duke. The utility is contending that such plants are necessary because solar, wind and other renewable sources of energy can’t meet the region’s overall needs through the next decade.

Duke has committed to meet targets approved by state lawmakers that call for achieving   carbon neutrality for customers by 2050. Plans call for ending the use of coal-fired plants by 2035. The new plans suggest a 70% carbon reduction by 2035 is the most realistic, least-cost option, compared with other proposals to speed up the decline in carbon dioxide emissions.

“Duke’s updated modeling and supplemental portfolio clearly illustrates how important offshore wind will be to providing the large quantities of carbon-free electricity needed to reliably run the grid,” Katharine Kollins, president of the Southeastern Wind Coalition, said in a press release. Her group advocates for wind projects.

Duke’s plan calls for about 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind production by 2035; there is none, currently. That compares with an estimated 6,800 megawatts of combined-cycle natural gas capacity by 2033; and 6,360 megawatts of solar energy capacity and 2,700 megawatts of battery storage capacity by 2031.

Duke says it expects South Carolina regulators to issue an order related to the plans in November, followed by North Carolina in December.



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