New filings show Duke-Progress risking corporate death spiral by ignoring rapid US shift toward solar, wind, energy storage
Durham, NC – As a tsunami of rapid changes wash over the US electric power industry, as an industry trade group warns that non-adapting utilities could go the way of the typewriter, and despite growing statewide opposition to serial rate hikes and fracking gas, Duke Energy and subsidiary Progress Energy yesterday filed long-range plans to stick with a 20th-century business model.
Huge cost overruns and delays are plaguing the VC Summer nuclear construction project, the US nuclear “renaissance” is collapsing, and the immediate past chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently declared that the US nuclear industry is “going away.” But Duke still plans to invest in Summer and to attempt construction of twin reactors at its Lee site in SC.
Amid internal fighting, it seems that Duke’s old guard is hanging on to control, stuck on building far more supply than needed while raising rates and hoping it can lock out competition. Still, the Integrated Resource Plans, filed with NC regulators, seem to reflect a somewhat looser commitment to the climate-wrecking, rate-raising trajectory. So perhaps wiser corporate heads will prevail.
The fossil-nuke bosses’ hopes that they can block a growing call for competition puts Duke’s customers, investors and the state economy at great risk – especially with fast-growing solar rooftop financing models in nearby states allowing installation with no up-front cost to customers. PV solar is already far cheaper per kilowatt than new nuclear power could ever be, and energy storage products are advancing in the marketplace. A few key points from the IRPs filed in NC:
- Duke and Progress, combined, project building 7,975 MW of gas and nuclear plants by 2028 in the Carolinas – equal to eight giant power plants.
- To justify this, Duke-Progress claim demand will grow 1.5% annually despite hefty declines in national demand projected by the Energy Information Agency and years of falling demand at home. This is a well-worn exaggeration used annually to justify building power plants.
- In 2028, Duke-Progress project renewable power (including non-renewable biomass) to be 3% of total sales, and efficiency programs to be 6% of sales.*
- Despite years of green-washing under visionary CEO Jim Rogers, in 2014 Duke-Progress combined will have renewables totaling 1% of sales, and efficiency at 1% of sales.
- Claims of lower emissions ignore large amounts of methane leakage in the fracking gas cycle.
* Duke indicates that in 2021, only about 40% of the 12.5% REPS compliance will come from renewables in North Carolina (including non-renewable biomass), and 25% will be from efficiency.