At Monday meeting, groups and public will press faith-filled regulators not to rubber-stamp unneeded Asheville plant that would speed climate change and gouge customers
Statement by Director Jim Warren:
Durham, NC – NC WARN has long maintained that Duke Energy wildly exaggerates projections of electricity demand so it can keep building unneeded power plants and raising customer rates – and that state regulators should scrutinize the estimates instead of accepting Duke execs at their word year after year. On Monday, the NC Utilities Commission’s Public Staff will dutifully report its faith in Duke’s latest, unverified numbers – the only basis for the supposed need for a large fracking-gas-fired power plant in Asheville.
Today NC WARN released an analysis showing how far-fetched Duke’s projections have been over the years. We filed it as a joint motion with The Climate Times reminding the Commission that Duke’s central case for building the Asheville plant is its unverified claim that customer usage in western NC will grow by a whopping 17 percent in the next ten years.
As graphically shown on this chart, each year from 2003 to 2014, Duke Energy Progress told the Commission that customer usage across its system for the following ten years would grow; the average of those annual growth rate projections was 1.4%. But actual growth was only one-third of the projections, on average.
The difference represents billions of dollars in new power plants. Duke’s growth projections simply cannot be trusted, and the Commission cannot allow the monopoly utility to keep building plants based on fictitious estimates. We’re calling on the Commission to require an independent, transparent analysis of what growth in that region might be over the next 10 years, and that it be subject to careful, open review.
Even before our latest analysis, veteran energy industry engineer Bill Powers* concluded that Duke’s “load growth forecast is unsupported and conflicts with the static or declining actual peak load trend in the Western Carolinas over the last eight years.”
On Monday, the Commission will hear an oral recommendation by its Public Staff for approval of the controversial plant. And it will entertain brief comments by NC WARN and other interveners before issuing an order within ten days.
10am Dobbs Building, 430 N. Salisbury St., Raleigh
Each year, Duke Energy Progress submits growth estimates to the Commission as it argues the need to build billion-dollar power plants without end. In recent years, the Commission has signed off without even allowing critics to field expert witnesses or cross-examine Duke officials. Any ten-year projection has uncertainties such as economic ups and downs. But national projections for electricity show virtually no growth in demand over the long-term due to more efficient appliances, homes and lighting.
The Commission’s Public Staff yesterday endorsed Duke’s secretive application for the Asheville plant with only minor changes. The Public Staff – state employees charged with representing electricity customers – obviously disregarded input by interveners and our experts submitted last Friday. The Staff’s written recommendation includes virtually no mention of concerns regarding lack of need, risky gas economics and reliability, or the fact that natural gas is now even worse than coal for the climate crisis due to widespread methane leakage.
The Public Staff also refused to ask the Commission to require that Duke Energy make public key information about the project or even verify the critical 17-percent growth projection. The regulators have repeatedly sided with Duke’s interpretation of last year’s bizarre legislation – pushed through by Sen. Tom Apodaca – creating a nationally unprecedented, 45-day approval process for the Asheville plant.
This totally rigged process violates both the state Constitution and state officials’ duty to prioritize the interests of North Carolinians over wealthy corporations such as Duke Energy.
NC WARN and allies will continue building the public call for Attorney General Roy Cooper to use his constitutionally-based policing authority to reign in this corporate abuse of our state.