Following strong public outcry, Duke Energy announced today that is reconsidering plans for its Western Carolinas Modernization Project. The most recent version of the plan included 40 miles of massive new transmission lines extending from a gas plant getting an over-sized upgrade.
Duke said the utility was going to hit pause on its plans for at least a month as it weights the over 9,000 public comments submitted opposing the proposal.
“Stepping back from this disastrous transmission line is the right move for the environment and mountain communities,” said D.J. Gerken, managing attorney for SELC’s Asheville office. “Duke Energy has heard the public outcry – now it’s time to turn that outcry into opportunity by powering western North Carolina with clean, renewable energy instead of an overbuilt gas plant.”
The project centered on the retirement of coal-powered generators at Duke’s Asheville plant, which SELC worked hard to encourage. But the utility followed that good decision with a bad one when they opted to nearly double the plant’s capacity when converting it to new natural gas units. In planning to go from 376MW to 650MW, Duke was overbuilding the plant’s capacity and wasting an important opportunity to transition to renewable energy.
Thousands of citizens concerned about the proposal have turned out at public hearings over the summer and several North Carolina and South Carolina communities—including Mills River, Hendersonville, and Greenville, Henderson, Polk, and Spartanburg counties—passed resolutions opposing the project.
“Today the voices of thousands of people and organizations across the Carolinas have forced Duke Energy to change course on this misguided proposal, which would have deeply and permanently scarred South Carolina's beautiful Blue Ridge and Piedmont foothills,” said Frank Holleman, senior attorney. “This would not have happened without the thousands citizens and many organizations that made clear our states do not need a massive new 45-mile long power line, a huge new substation, and an expensive oversized gas plant. We hope Duke Energy will use the next month to come up with a modern and affordable alternative as a Thanksgiving gift for the Carolinas.”
SELC was already engaged in representing Upstate Forever in South Carolina in opposing the transmission line project, and has long worked with our partners the Sierra Club and MountainTrue to retire the outdated Asheville plant in favor of a cleaner energy source.
The map below illustrates Duke Energy’s proposal, which is now on hold.