Environmentalists speak out against Duke's 20-year energy plan

One hearing already scheduled in Raleigh, but another sought in Charlotte

bhenderson@charlotteobserver.comDecember 13, 2012 

Environmental activists asked the N.C. Utilities Commission on Thursday to hold a hearing in Charlotte on Duke Energy’s 20-year energy plan for North Carolina.

The commission has scheduled a Feb. 11 hearing in Raleigh on Duke Energy Carolinas’ Integrated Resources Plan, or IRP, which spells out how the company expects to meet future power needs.

Greenpeace and individual activists say Duke’s plan relies too heavily on nuclear and fossil fuels and will result in further rate hikes. They want Duke to expand use of renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Duke’s plan, filed in September, shows nuclear energy rising from 27 percent of its total capacity in 2013 to 29 percent by 2032. Natural gas grows from 18 percent to 29 percent, while coal falls by nearly one-third from 35 percent to 24 percent. Renewable energy goes from 0.2 percent to 3 percent.

Greenpeace submitted petitions signed by 800 Charlotte residents to hold a second hearing in Charlotte. The group says the Raleigh meeting now scheduled on a Monday night will make it hard for residents of Duke’s headquarters city to attend.

The groups Clean Air Carolina, the Charlotte-area Green Party, the local Sierra Club chapter and We Love Mountain Island Lake also called for a Charlotte hearing.

“Our citizens want their voices heard and their concerns addressed,” said Charlotte City Council member John Autry, at a press conference organized by the groups.

In recent years the Utilities Commission has held a single hearing in Raleigh on IRPs filed by all utilities and electrical cooperatives operating in the state. It scheduled two additional hearings, in Greenville and Asheville, in 2006 in response to requests from the public.

General counsel Sam Watson said the commission would consider holding a Charlotte hearing this time but he couldn’t predict what decision would be made.

The door-to-door Greenpeace campaign that netted the petition signatures also lays the groundwork for opposition to a rate hike that Duke Energy Carolinas expects to seek in February. It would be its third rate hike since 2009.

The 7.7 percent rate increase granted in January helped Duke pay for a new gas-fired power plant, a new coal-fired unit and installation of new pollution controls.

“It’s ironic that the same groups pushing Duke to become more environmentally friendly are now criticizing Duke’s spending to do that,” said company spokesman David Scanzoni.

Progress Energy Carolinas, the Duke Energy subsidiary that serves Eastern North Carolina and Asheville, has an 11 percent rate hike now before the utilities commission.

Activists in Raleigh will hold a news conference Friday against rising energy rates. Consumers Against Rate Hikes includes AARP, the N.C. Housing Coalition and the N.C. Justice Center.

Henderson: 704-358-5051 Twitter: @bhender

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