Duke Energy scales back gas generation proposal; drops 230-kV Foothills line

Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK) said Nov. 4 that in response to community concerns it will replace its coal plant in Asheville, N.C., with two smaller gas units rather than one large one, and also abandon plans for the 230-kV Foothills Transmission Line and Campobello substation.

Duke said in a news release that the 45-mile transmission line and substation will no longer be necessary under its revised Western Carolinas modernization project.

The company plans to file for a Certificate for Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) with the North Carolina Utilities Commission for the new gas units in January 2016.

The state commission has already a proposed gas pipeline that could serve the Duke power generation site.

The reconfigured plan for the Asheville Power Plant site includes:

**Retiring the coal units as scheduled by 2020;

**Building two natural gas combined-cycle 280-MW units on the site, with the option for a simple-cycle 190-MW unit in 2023 or later, depending on the success of the company and community’s efforts to reduce daily and peak power demand;

**New units that will be designed to operate with a dual fuel source so oil can serve as emergency backup in the event of an interruption of the natural gas supply;

**Plans for a utility-scale solar power plant on the site;

**Rebuilding existing transmission lines and related substation upgrades using existing transmission rights-of-way to increase Duke Energy Progress’ ability to continue importing enough power into the Asheville region to serve the region’s growing power demand and meet federal power reliability standards.

Duke said that retiring the existing coal plant in favor of less-emitting natural gas units shave reduce carbon dioxide emissions about 60% on a per-megawatt-hour basis. Water withdrawals will be reduced by an estimated 97% and water discharges will be cut by 50%. The coal-to-gas plan will also make sweeping reductions in sulfur dioxide; nitrogen oxide and mercury, Duke said.

Since 1970, peak power demand has more than tripled in Duke Energy Progress’ Western Region, which serves 160,000 customers in nine Western North Carolina counties.

Ensuring power reliability was particularly difficult during the winters of 2014 and 2015, when peak demand was 30% higher than in 2013. Over the next decade, continued population and business growth is expected to increase overall power demand by more than 15%, Duke said.

Less power infrastructure will require more demand side management

Western North Carolina is growing faster than most other areas in the Carolinas. To successfully meet the region’s growing power needs, the revamped project will require significantly more participation in energy efficiency, demand-side management, renewable energy and developing technologies from the company, communities and customers in the region, Duke said in its news release.

“I want to thank everyone who has been involved in this process for their input and patience, including those who sent us more than 9,000 comments regarding our proposed transmission line and overall project,” said Lloyd Yates, Duke Energy’s executive vice president for market solutions and president of the Carolinas region. “We believe the process worked.

“We have been committed to developing a plan to maintain the region’s power reliability with the least possible impact on communities, property owners and the environment from the start of this effort, and we believe our revised plans accomplish those goals,” said Yates.

“While the previous plan was more robust and scaled for the longer-term, the new plan balances the concerns raised by the community and the very real need for more electricity to serve this growing region,” said Yates. “We’re eager to ramp up our efforts in working with the community to reduce power demand across the region through energy efficiency, demand response, renewable energy and other technologies to work collectively to avoid building additional generation in the area for as long as possible.”

SELC happy with revised plan

The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) represented critics of the original Duke plan: Upstate Forever in South Carolina and Sierra Club and Mountain True in North Carolina.

SELC said that it was happy to see Duke Energy to abandon its proposed transmission line and substation in the western Carolinas, and scale down an “oversized” 650-MW gas plant in Asheville, N.C.

“Duke Energy’s decision to abandon its proposed power line and substation is a victory for the thousands of citizens across the western Carolinas who have stood up to protect the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Piedmont,” said Frank Holleman, senior attorney for SELC. 

“Duke Energy wisely yielded to the outcry opposing its ill-conceived power line, but still ignores calls to move our mountains past outdated fossil fuels,” said DJ Gerken, senior attorney, Southern Environmental Law Center.  “Slimming down this power plant is a half-step forward, but Duke should invest in clean renewable energy, like wind and solar, rather than committing to decades more fossil fuel electricity with a new gas plant.”

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.