CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Duke Energy Progress received approval from the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC) to transition to a smarter, cleaner energy future at the Asheville Plant. The project is estimated to cost approximately $1 billion.

Under the agreement, the company plans to construct two 280-megawatt combined cycle natural gas-fueled electric generating units to replace its existing 376-megawatt coal plant, which will be retired by 2020.

“We appreciate the North Carolina Utilities Commission’s thorough consideration and decision on our Western Carolinas Modernization Project,” said David Fountain, Duke Energy’s North Carolina president. “We are fully committed to creating a smarter and cleaner energy future for the region.

“We also have a unique opportunity to work with the community to reduce energy demand and invest in technology that will provide cleaner energy to power the growing region of Western North Carolina,” he added. “This project will allow us to continue to provide cost-effective, reliable power for all of our customers in North Carolina and South Carolina.”

The company is working with the Asheville, Buncombe County and surrounding communities to explore solutions that will reduce energy use in the fast-growing, nine-county Duke Energy Progress-West region, which serves more than 350,000 people.

The company will closely track collective progress toward reducing daily and peak power demand and will file annual updates on the progress of the community’s efforts to reduce peak load growth.

If these efforts are successful, Duke Energy Progress will delay or cancel plans to file a future Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) application for the commercial operation of the Asheville 186-megawatt simple-cycle power plant.

Duke Energy will file a future CPCN application to seek approval for a minimum of 15 megawatts of new solar generation over the next seven years after the Asheville coal units have been decommissioned and coal ash excavation is completed.

The company also plans to seek approval to install a minimum of 5 megawatts of utility-scale electricity storage over the next seven years. Company officials will continue to evaluate other investments in renewables and other technologies to cost-effectively meet the needs of its customers.

Environmental and customer benefits

Construction of the natural gas-fired combined-cycle power plants is scheduled to begin in 2016 and be in service by late 2019. The new plant will have significantly lower environmental impacts than the existing coal plant.

Sulfur dioxide will be reduced by an estimated 99 percent.
Nitrogen oxide will be reduced by an estimated 45 percent.
Mercury emissions will be reduced to negligible levels
Water discharges will be reduced by an estimated 50 percent.
Carbon dioxide emissions will be reduced by about 60 percent, on a per-megawatt-hour basis, due to the efficiency of the new gas units and the fact that natural gas burns more cleanly than coal.

(The percentages above are estimates and include both phases of the modernization project. Final percentages will be determined after the company receives environmental permits.)

In addition to the environmental benefits, the combined cycle gas units’ efficiency ratings are about 35 percent less expensive to operate than the existing coal units. These savings will be annually passed on to customers dollar-for-dollar via the company’s annual fuel clause adjustment.

Upgrades to existing transmission equipment on the Asheville Plant site are also planned as part of this project.

Since 1970, peak power demand has more than tripled in Duke Energy Progress’ Western Region. Ensuring power reliability was particularly difficult during the winters of 2014 and 2015, when peak demand was 30 percent higher than in 2013. Over the next decade, continued population and business growth is expected to increase overall power demand by more than 17 percent.

About Duke Energy

Duke Energy is the largest electric power holding company in the United States. Its regulated utility operations serve approximately 7.3 million electric customers located in six states in the Southeast and Midwest, representing a population of approximately 23 million people. It’s Commercial Portfolio and International business segments own and operate diverse power generation assets in North America and Latin America, including a growing portfolio of renewable energy assets in the United States.

Derick Lila
Derick is a Clark University graduate—and Fulbright alumni with a Master's Degree in Environmental Science, and Policy. He has over a decade of solar industry research, marketing, and content strategy experience.

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