By John Downey
The N.C. Attorney General’s office has called on state regulators to reject Duke Energy Corp.’s proposed long-term plant construction plans, despite a debate over whether regulators have the authority to do so.
In a recent filing with the N.C. Utilities Commission, Attorney General Josh Stein makes three primary criticisms of the 15-year Integrated Resource Plans submitted by Duke Energy Carolinas and Duke Energy Progress in the fall of 2020 and now before the commission.
The filing contends Duke:
•Seriously, and perhaps intentionally, overstated the costs for renewable energy resources.
•Failed to adequately assess the possibility of closing its existing coal plants early.
•Made unreasonable assumptions on the cost of additional natural gas plants and the availability of future gas supplies — including a failure to consider customers could have to pay for new natural gas plants long after environmental considerations force them to close down.
“In light of the shortcomings in Duke’s 2020 plans, the (Attorney General) recommends that the commission reject them and direct Duke to revise and resubmit them with alternative portfolios that offer reasonably supported proposals for advancing clean energy goals,” writes Special Deputy Attorney General Margaret Force in the filing.
A number of groups object to the long-term plant construction outlines submitted by Duke Energy Carolina and Duke Energy Progress for the same or similar reasons. But Force’s filing perhaps most strongly asserts the commission take action that is not clearly in its statutory authority.
Sam Watson, the commission’s general counsel, acknowledges there is no clear direction from legislators on how the commission is to consider the utility resource plans. And there is no specific language on approving them or rejecting them.
His reading of the law is that since the commission was authorized to make the rules on IRPs, it is free to handle them as it sees fit. Even with that he acknowledges there is nothing in the commission’s own rules on approving or rejecting the plans.