NC WARN: Waste Awareness & Reduction Network
NEWS RELEASEContact: Jim Warren
February 9, 2009919-416-5077
The Southeast has a large surplus of electricity supply, but power companies want to build more plants – on the backs of customers, says watchdog group
DURHAM, NC – More industry data was released today showing Duke Energy and other southeastern utilities are trying to build a large surplus of electricity capacity that would double or triple customers’ power bills, ignore energy efficiency, and defy urgent warnings by climate experts that CO2 emissions must be dramatically decreased. That’s according to NC WARN, which says the utilities are seeking to build 50,000 megawatts worth of unneeded and risky coal and nuclear power plants even as customer demand falls due to conservation and other long-term trends.
The Durham-based watchdog group said the latest information adds to a mountain of earlier proof that Duke Energy’s controversial expansion of its Cliffside coal-fired plant is not needed. In a filing with the NC Utilities Commission regarding regional supply and demand, NC WARN also said Duke is defying a Commission order by virtually ignoring the availability of a large regional power surplus while insisting 800 megawatts must be added at Cliffside.1
Attorney John Runkle wrote that recent regional utilities’ filings with the Southeast Reliability Corporation, (SERC) “demonstrate that there is significantly more existing and planned generation capacity than needed for reliability in the Southeast region.”
By 2017, SERC projects regional demand for electricity at 230,000 MW, but total supply at 320,000 MW. Also, those projections are based on long-term growth estimates far higher than new projections by Duke Energy and Progress Energy. After years of claiming new power plants are vital due to annual 2% growth in demand, both companies’ growth trends were about half that amount over the past several years. And in new annual filings, both companies halved their earlier projections for long-term growth in customer demand (not due to the current economic recession).
The 90,000 MW southeastern excess would be about twice the ordinary reserve margin intended as a buffer against peak demand in the heat of summer. Even allowing for the peak margin, the utilities are seeking to build the equivalent of around 50 large coal or nuclear plants in excess of regional electricity needs.
“Duke CEO Jim Rogers’ case for Cliffside is now in shreds. While he claims publicly that he must build more power plants, the official documents show exactly the opposite,” Jim Warren, executive director of NC WARN said today. Warren said his group and allies had already proven in a half-dozen ways – mostly with Duke’s own data – that Cliffside is not needed. These include oversupply, feasibility of low-cost energy efficiency, and Duke’s plan to sell power out-of-region.2
NC WARN asserts that the industry expansion efforts are linked to recent legislation transferring to ratepayers much of the financial risk for new plants in southeastern states. Without such protection, NC WARN says, regional utilities would be forced to join – or at least stop impeding – the growing global shift to energy efficiency, the best way to protect power bills and address the growing emergency of climate change.
“This gross and risky over-building couldn’t survive in the free marketplace,” added Warren. “It’s happening because Duke, Progress and other Southeastern power companies enjoy compliant state legislatures and monopoly service areas.” He also cited a report last week showing Duke invested $750,000 in campaign money for key state officials in recent years. “Governor Perdue and others must ensure we use energy wisely – including excess capacity already out there – before ratepayers are put on the hook for risky new power plants.”
NC WARN’s filing with the utilities commission also cites a recent Center for American Progress study arguing that generation costs for new nuclear power could be as much as 30 cents per kilowatt hour – three times what Duke’s residential customers are now paying.
Construction of Duke’s $2.4 billion Cliffside expansion is about 11% complete, but a host of pending legal actions could stop the project based in part on what critics say are Duke efforts to skirt federal law on toxic air pollution, along with a growing public mandate for greenhouse gas reductions. A number of health officials have begun weighing in over smokestack emissions of mercury and other pollutants.
2 See a summary of earlier proof that new plants aren’t needed:
NC WARN is a grassroots non-profit tackling the accelerating climate crisis by working for a swift North Carolina transition to energy efficiency and clean power.