Experts: Duke Energy Favors Expensive New Plants over Lower Cost Clean Energy
Chapel Hill, N.C.— Adding more energy efficiency, solar and wind power to Duke Energy’s energy mix will lower costs for its customers in North Carolina, but the utility is using a flawed analysis to justify building costly new gas and nuclear power plants, according to two new independent analyses of Duke Energy’s long-range plans. The independent analyses were filed in an annual review proceeding currently pending before the North Carolina Utilities Commission by conservation groups—the Sierra Club, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and the Natural Resources Defense Council—represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center.
“Expert analysis shows Duke Energy could save its customers in North Carolina billions of dollars by adding more energy efficiency and solar and wind energy to its mix,” said Gudrun Thompson, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center who is representing the conservation groups before the commission. “Increases in these clean energy resources would alleviate the need for costly new power plants that Duke Energy is justifying with flawed assumptions and artificial constraints.”
An analysis by Daymark Energy Advisors found that, Duke Energy Carolinas and Duke Energy Progress artificially limited their consideration of energy efficiency and renewable energy resources in their 2016 Integrated Resource Plans, instead of allowing these clean energy sources to compete on a level playing field with traditional resources like coal, gas and nuclear. As a result, Duke’s chosen energy portfolio is higher cost and more carbon intensive than necessary.
According to Daymark’s findings, early retirements of dirty coal units and greater reliance on energy efficiency, solar and wind would result in a lower cost portfolio of resources that would both benefit ratepayers and reduce Duke’s carbon footprint.
Adding more energy efficiency, solar and wind to Duke’s future energy mix can also help to defer or avoid altogether the need for new and costly natural gas and nuclear plants in addition to accelerating retirement of polluting coal plants.
A second analysis by Wilson Energy Economics found that Duke’s plans to build costly new power plants are based on flawed assumptions about the “reserve margin” needed to maintain system reliability. Duke Energy’s asserted reserve margins—the extra capacity that the utilities can draw on during extreme weather or plant outages—are based on flawed studies that exaggerate the risk and magnitude of extreme winter peak loads. In addition, past trends show that Duke Energy Carolinas’ winter peak forecast is abnormally high, resulting in an exaggerated projection of energy needs in winter months. Both the improperly-inflated reserve margins and Duke Energy Carolinas’ exaggerated winter peak load mean that some of the expensive new power plants that Duke is planning to build at great cost to its ratepayers are not necessary.
The Southern Environmental Law Center is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. With nine offices across the region (Charlottesville, VA; Chapel Hill, NC; Atlanta, GA; Charleston, SC; Washington, DC; Birmingham, AL; Nashville, TN; Asheville, NC; and Richmond, VA), SELC is widely recognized as the Southeast’s foremost environmental organization and regional leader. SELC works on a full range of environmental issues to protect the South’s natural resources and the health and well-being of all the people in our region. www.SouthernEnvironment.org