NOTE TO EDITORS
Contact: Jim Warren
June 6, 2007
A Big Boost Against Global Warming and Nuclear Risks
Progress Energy’s delay in pursuing new reactors is an important step toward
climate protection and the transition to clean, economical electricity
Statement by Jim Warren, Executive Director of NC WARN:
Many details remain unresolved regarding last week’s announcement that Progress Energy will postpone attempts to license and build new reactors at Shearon Harris for at least two more years while implementing energy efficiency programs. Nevertheless, the move is important in several ways.
1) The public is demanding climate protection via the transition to clean, economical power – and by opposing huge new power plants. We commend Progress for heeding the growing call for energy efficiency as the fastest and most economically sound means of cutting greenhouse gases. As CEO Robert McGehee said, “…our world has become much more aware of global climate issues and the factors that affect climate change.” This could lead to much-needed cooperation between Progress and the public in the urgent struggle to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
2) Every delay in building coal and nuclear plants is a boost toward climate protection. Pursuing multi-billion dollar plants is squandering the time and resources needed to slow global warming. In particular, debate over more nuclear energy is a dangerous distraction from genuine climate solutions: cutting waste, ramping up clean generation, and cogeneration at commercial and industrial facilities.
3) Progress has relinquished its role as leader of a proposed nuclear revival. A year ago, Progress positioned itself as the first applicant to build new reactors – and garner billion-dollar taxpayer subsidies – saying it hoped to bring a new reactor on line at Harris by 2016. The Raleigh-based corporation has gradually dropped back in the pack of utilities talking about new plants – while hedging about ever needing them – a reflection of the enormous uncertainties of gambling on multi-billion dollar projects that could fail prior to completion for any of a dozen reasons.
No utility would commit to building a new nuke until after a 2.5-year (or much longer) licensing process. So even if Progress submits an application to the NRC, an action the company now indicates would be “more than a year away,” it would be a minimum of 3.5 years before it could commit to new reactors and waste pools at Harris.
I count this as the first cancellation [of the much-discussed nuclear revival].
Paul Gunter, Nuclear Information & Resource Service – Washington, DC
4) We commend Progress for its moratorium against building coal-fired plants, and refer that message to Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers. Late this year, Rogers might have to decide whether to break ground on an 800 MW coal-fired plant at Cliffside, a project that just suffered another delay and a third major price hike: Latest estimate = $2.4 billion and rising.
5) Beware the PR about efficiency programs. The extent and conditions under which either Progress
Energy or Duke Energy will truly pursue efficiency and renewable generation remain in great
question. There is much to be resolved at various upcoming hearings before the NC Utilities Commission. Both power companies have long claimed to support those measures, despite having no programs in the Carolinas that actually save energy.
We are wary about their motives due to the actions of both companies: their pattern of deceptive public relations campaigns; ongoing efforts to abolish the State Energy Office; well-funded programs designed to increase electricity usage; continuing statements that they want to build multi-billion dollar coal and/or nuclear plants; and aggressive legislative efforts that would force customers to bear the financial risks for plants that may never be completed, as happened in the 1980s.
Also, serious questions remain as to whether the utilities are sufficiently qualified and conflict-free to administer efficiency programs, or whether that job should go to an experienced and independent third party such as the State Energy Office. Both utilities’ proposals and public statements actually prove that sufficient energy savings exist so that we could indeed avoid risking new power plants, while speeding the growth of renewables and cogeneration. The only question is whether North Carolina makes the genuine, committed effort needed to make this crucial transition.
Shifting to an energy efficient state economy bolstered by thousands of jobs producing and installing smart-energy technologies will require more than the utilities’ rhetoric about asking customers to save energy. We call on state leaders to implement standards for wise usage of energy in new and existing homes and buildings, and to fully fund State Energy Office programs that are already making energy-saving a reality.
NC WARN and others have long offered to support restructuring of the state electricity rate system so that the utilities can benefit from efficient, clean energy. The details and process of making such changes must be transparent – and mutually beneficial. This would be a welcome change, because the utilities are accustomed to using corporate muscle to advance their financial interests instead of those of the public.
We commend our members, coalition allies and the civic leaders who are building the public voice demanding a shift to clean, efficient energy in North Carolina. This state can still emerge as a leader instead of chasing old, hazardous technologies and the “good ole boy” mindset that helped create the climate crisis, pollution damage and ongoing nuclear risks we now are bearing.