8: number of low-efficiency, “dual fuel” gas-fired units Duke Energy is building without approval or scrutiny
50: total number of gas-burning electric generating units Duke plans to build by 2035
24: number of more efficient Duke gas-burning turbines that sat totally idle in 2019
33: percentage of all Duke Carolinas’ generating capacity that was not used on the highest-demand days of 2019
0: number of fossil-fuel power plants climate experts say Duke should build
NC WARN, the Center for Biological Diversity and Appalachian Voices filed a legal petition with the NC Utilities Commission in July 2020 asserting that Duke Energy is violating state law by quietly building large amounts of inefficient gas-burning capacity without commission approval.
Duke has 24 more efficient gas units sitting idle, but is building new gas capacity at its Belews Creek, Marshall and Cliffside coal plants. The utility is seeking $278 million, plus a roughly 10% profit from ratepayers, for some of these “stealth gas” projects in an ongoing rate case.
Between dual-fuel and conventional gas plants, Duke is planning to build over 50 new fracked gas-burning units in the Carolinas at a time that climate scientists warn we must be ramping down, not expanding, the use of fossil fuels.
The petition argues that North Carolina law requires Duke to seek prior approval before building gas-burning units as an add-on to coal-fired power plants. The groups want commissioners to require Duke to undergo an open review process to acquire a permit before building the units.
Duke’s inefficient dual-fuel systems create even higher electricity costs and produce even more greenhouse emissions than its other gas-burning units.
In a permitting process, Duke would have to address these objections. Without that process, commissioners have no chance to weigh in until Duke’s rate case, at which point the expenditures have already been made. This creates pressure for commissioners to allow Duke to recover its costs and associated 10% profit from customers.