More emissions, coal ash, and rate hikes vs. competition and cleaner, cheaper energy? The people of North Carolina should have the power to choose the path forward.
Each year Duke Energy must file a 15-year plan for meeting electricity demand in North Carolina – where it has monopoly control. In reviewing these integrated resource plans or IRPs, the NC Utilities Commission is required to ensure that utilities adopt the “least cost mix” of generation and energy-saving measures that is achievable in order to avoid undue costs for customers.
In fact, the NC Supreme Court has specified that the purpose of the IRPs is to prevent the costly overbuilding of new power plants.
In its latest IRP, filed last fall, Duke proposes unabated use of its workhorse, climate-wrecking coal-fired power plants, increased burning of fracking gas, construction of high-risk nuclear plants – and negligible amounts of clean, affordable renewable energy and energy saving programs.
A $25 Billion Fiction
Duke bases its “build more plants” plan on forecasts of high growth in customers’ use of electricity – about 1.5% each year – even though usage across the electric industry has been flat for more than a decade.
But in challenging the IRP, NC WARN points out that Duke executives are telling a very different story. Just weeks after the IRP was filed in October 2013, CEO Lynn Good told investors growth would be 0.5 – 0.9%. Jim Rogers – Duke’s CEO until 2013, who remains the industry’s leading spokesman – says growth will be “flat to declining,” and that new power plants won’t be built at all.
The projected growth in energy usage is critical to determining the need for new power plants. The difference between a 1.4% increase and flat growth over the 15-year period is equal to $25 – 30 billion worth of new power plants that are not needed and that Carolinas ratepayers will be forced to pay for.
In response to Duke’s 2012 IRP, NC WARN created an alternative: A Responsible Energy Future for North Carolina. Our analysis showed that, even using Duke Energy’s exaggerated growth projections, all coal plants in the Carolinas can be phased out and no natural gas and nuclear plants need to be constructed. (See the report at ncwarn.org.)
NC WARN has just released an adjusted proposal – filed as part of the NC Utilities Commission’s 2013 IRP docket — to reflect the flat demand predicted by Rogers and others, along with a greater adoption of renewable energy, energy efficiency and combined heat and power.
Our updated Responsible Energy Future calls for North Carolina to achieve the following by 2028:
- 7% renewable energy, 24% energy efficiency, and 10% combined heat and power, as a percentage of total energy sales;
- phase-out of all coal-fired power generating plants;
- no new natural gas or nuclear plants; and
- closure of some of the dirtiest natural gas or most dangerous nuclear units.
A transition to cleaner energy will benefit North Carolina’s economy and its people’s health. Duke Energy currently spends $1.7 billion each year to buy coal from out of state. Duke’s coal plants spew climate-harming pollution into the atmosphere and produce an ever-increasing mountain of toxic coal ash waste, millions of gallons of which were recently leaked into the Dan River. Ramping up clean energy, on the other hand, promotes economic development; a 2013 census estimates the clean energy industry employs 18,404 workers in the state and brings in $3.6 billion in revenue.
There is rapid change happening in the electric utilities business, such as the widespread opposition to carbon-producing power plants, the demise of the nuclear renaissance, rapid advances in utility-scale batteries and the emergence of solar energy as a cost-effective option. Duke Energy’s plans suggest they have chosen to ignore these industry-wide changes.
A transition by Duke Energy toward a business model that embraces new advances in the industry such as distributed energy and energy efficiency, instead of one that relies on massive, unneeded centralized power plants, could be a national, if not international, game-changer to reduce the drastic impacts of climate change.
If the Commission approves the Duke Energy plan as proposed, it approves a status quo threatening to bankrupt North Carolina’s economy and continue polluting our air and water.
There is an alternative for a responsible energy future that promotes a good economy and jobs, and will provide us all with a healthier place to live while doing our share to find solutions to climate change.
See NC WARN’s full comments to the Utilities Commission, including pie charts comparing Duke Energy’s IRP to our Responsible Energy Future, at https://www.ncwarn.org/wp-content/uploads/NCW_comments_2013_IRP.pdf.