Duke Energy sees slower demand growth but says it needs more new power plants

Charlotte Business Journal, October 20, 2015

Duke Energy’s latest long-term plans for the Carolinas show the company expects power demand to grow more slowly than previously projected. But plans still call for building more new generation than it did a year ago.

Critics contend Duke (NYSE:DUK) manipulated the calculation of how much reserve power it will need over the next 15 years to justify unnecessary plant construction. Charlotte-based Duke contends the larger reserves are necessary.

The latest projections are included in the Integrated Resource Plan for Duke’s two Carolinas utilities. The IRP is a report submitted annually to regulators in both states to lay out, in a general way, what the utilities see as their needs and expectations for power supply over the coming 15 years.

Utilities are required to have reserve margins in their power supply to ensure power is available in case of unexpected outages. In the Carolinas, utilities determine those margins, but their calculations must be approved by the N.C. Utilities Commission and the S.C. Public Service Commission.

Suspicious timing

For 2015, Duke Energy Carolinas and Duke Energy Progress have proposed reserve margins of 17%. That is up from 14.5% in 2014.

Jim Warren, executive director of the environmental advocacy group NC WARN, says the timing of Duke’s decision that reserve margins should increase is suspicious.

“Demand is down, and we’ve complained for some time that there is a glut of juice available in the Southeast,” he says. “What better way to claim under these circumstances that you still need to build new plants than to inflate the reserves needed and claim you need a boost in standby power.”

Duke spokesman Randy Wheeless says there is no manipulation. The two Duke utilities commissioned a new study of reserve margins that showed the need for additional capacity.

One key consideration, he says, is that the utilities now find themselves in what had once been the unusual situation for Southeast utilities of hitting the highest demand of the year in the winter months rather than in the summer months.

“When you start peaking in the winter, some resources for responding to those peaks are not available as they would be in the summer,” he says.

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Regional Coordination and Markets: Key to a Renewable Energy Future

Switchboard: National Resources Defense Council Staff Blog, July 23, 2015

In the Western U.S. a major change in how the electrical system is operated is underway. It is driven by economics, environmental policy, and system reliability concerns. This change, from a balkanized, inefficiently operated grid to a coordinated, consolidated grid may just be the key to our renewable energy future.

We have heard much recently about California’s ambitious new climate and renewable energy goals. In his 2015 State of the State address, Governor Jerry Brown listed three main goals to be accomplished within the next 15 years: First, increase the amount of electricity the state derives from renewable sources from one-third to 50 percent. Second, reduce petroleum use in cars and trucks by up to 50 percent. Third, double the efficiency of existing buildings and make heating fuels cleaner.

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Report on viability of Underground Lines published by Edneyville Community

Edneyville Community has published a paper reviewing underground options for the transmission line.

Read the report: High Voltage Transmissions Lines in Henderson County: Can They be Put Underground?

From Hendersonville Lightning:

The group decided to independently study the cost and viability of running underground lines, she said. “There’s just so much misinformation out there,” she said.

Although Duke contended it had not run underground lines, she cited an October 2013 article “by two of Duke’s senior engineers” in the trade journal Transmission and Distribution World that describes an underground transmission line installation that Duke completed that year. “This line, the Barnard Creek-Town Creek 230-kV underground line, is the same voltage as the line now proposed to be run overhead through Henderson County,” the report said.

Read more in the Hendersonville Lightning

8/26/2015 UPDATE:

Just this month (8/18/2015) it was announced that Northern Pass officials unveiled a new project route Tuesday that buries an additional 52 miles of the 192 mile transmission line under state roadways. As reported in the Concord Monitor[1] (NH):

The company also announced a multimillion-dollar fund to invest in communities that host the project and a plan to direct a portion of the line’s hydropower to New Hampshire consumers.

But in order to bury more of the 192-mile line that would run from Pittsburg to Deerfield, the company had to scale back the size of the project from 1,200 megawatts to 1,000 – still enough to power 1 million homes.

Even though Northern Pass officials had previously said that burying more of the electric transmission line would send costs skyrocketing, a top Eversource Energy executive said Tuesday the project is still estimated to cost $1.4 billion.

Furthermore, the article stated that “Some had complained the project wouldn’t directly benefit New Hampshire, and instead feed power-hungry states to its south.”

[1] http://www.concordmonitor.com/news/18231021-95/northern-pass-proposes-52-more-miles-of-buried-lines-for-project

Hydro Electric Power may be an option for WNC

While Duke Power continues to insist that their plan for a new natural gas plant near Asheville plus miles and miles of invasive transmission lines is the only solution for western North Carolina’s energy needs, could there be an alternative?  MountainTrue has had some early discussions with Brookfield Renewable, the company that owns several hydropower dams in Graham County and eastern Tennessee.  While this is not necessarily an immediate solution to strengthening North Carolina’s energy infrastructure, why isn’t Duke Power even looking into alternatives like this?

Brookfield Renewable had this to say:

There are 380 MW of hydro power in Western North Carolina and East Tennessee owned by Brookfield Renewable Energy Group that are not currently under contract and are available to Duke Energy for purchase to help meet the energy needs of this region.  This significant renewable energy source should be part of Duke’s analysis as to whether their proposed gas plant and transmission lines are really needed.  Duke should seek the meet the energy needs of this region first with existing renewable energy generated in our own region and then through additional investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy in order to minimize the community and environmental impacts of their proposed “modernization” plan.

Shouldn’t Duke Power at least look into the possibility of using these existing hydro power options?  Are there more options that Duke hasn’t considered that would be less invasive and destructive to western North Carolina?  This is why we need more hearings, more information, and more answers.

South Carolina Attorney General says no to petroleum company’s request for eminent domain

Major petroleum player and massive energy company Kinder Morgan had to deal with a stinging blow this week, as the South Carolina Attorney General decided the company was not a “pipeline company.”  Because of this important distinction, Kinder Morgan will be unable to use eminent domain to seize property in its attempts to build the Palmetto Pipeline.

The Palmetto Pipeline would be part of a larger petroleum transpot system currently proposed by the Houston-based energy company.  Kinder Morgan is currently seeking to build a whole network of pipelines that would extend from Baton Rouge, Louisiana through Mississippi and South Carolina before ending in Jacksonville, Florida.  This legal defeat for Kinder Morgan could play into the current fight in Virginia and North Carolina against the Atlantic Coastal Pipeline.

Today, South Carolina has done a great thing by taking a stand against large energy companies, and standing up for private citizens and their land.  To read more about this issue, and to learn more about the SC Attorney General’s decision, please click here to be taken to the full article on the GSA Business website.

Bureau of Land Management asks to delay Atlantic Coast Pipeline

The Bureau of Land Management has the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to delay the proposed construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.  For those who don’t know, this pipeline will run from Virginia to North Carolina, potentially devastating parts of Eastern North Carolina.  The Bureau is seeking to delay this project to give the backers of the pipeline more time they need to conduct survey work on federal lands before the project actually moves into the construction phase.

From Natural Gas Intel:

“Additional survey data must be completed, particularly in the area of geology and soils, and this information must be provided within a timeframe that is reasonable to allow for adequate federal agency review before an EIS [environmental impact statement] is initiated.”

For more information, please read the entire article right here.

Also, to get more information and support a Frack Free North Carolina, join the Don’t Frack North Carolina Facebook page!

VA ruling could provide valuable precedent in Atlantic Coast Pipeline fight

A ruling against the Mountain Valley Pipeline could prove to be valuable ammunition in the fight against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

Monroe County Circuit Court Judge Robert Irons ruled earlier in August that surveyors seeking to choose a route for the Mountain Valley Pipeline could not enter the property of landowners who had denied them access.  While no decision has been made in a similar case concerning the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), the judge in that case – Judge Elizabeth Dillon – said “she understood the importance of that case.”

While spokesmen from Dominion Resources, one of the main companies pushing for the ACP, said this ruling would have no effect on that project, opponents of the ACP disagreed.  If surveyors for Dominion and other companies pushing the ACP (like Duke Power), they will not have as much information for their application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which would not bode well for the fate of the ACP.  From the Daily Progress:

“[I]n the case of Dominion not being allowed to survey, the company then would have less information about the land to include in its submission to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which ultimately holds the authority to approve or deny the project.

“They have to demonstrate on the application how many places were surveyed and who wouldn’t allow it,” Reed said “For those opposing the pipeline, this is extremely good news. This will cause less information available for Dominion to advocate for the pipeline.”

For the full article, please click the link for Charlottesville’s Daily Progress listed above.