Duplin County renewable plant turns to NC GOP leaders for help

The New York-based owners of a Duplin County renewable energy facility are hoping to enlist Gov. Pat McCrory and other GOP leaders in a last-ditch effort to save the plant from shutting down and laying off two dozen workers.

In a letter to McCrory and other Republicans this week, ReEnergy Holdings is blaming Duke Energy for the plant’s closure because the Charlotte-based utility company won’t renew its contract to buy electricity from the plant. ReEnergy is part of Riverstone Holdings, a New York private equity firm with a $27 billion investment portfolio.

The Kenansville facility, operated as Coastal Carolina Clean Power, has been generating electricity by burning wood and was planning a $15 million upgrade to include turkey litter in its fuel mix. CCCP says it will have to sell or scrap the plant if Duke doesn’t renew the contract.

Duke is letting the contract lapse Dec. 31 because the company says CCCP is demanding too much money for renewable power. The N.C. Utilities Commission has refused to intervene in the contract dispute.

The CCCP facility shut down Dec. 12 and will lay off most workers by Dec. 31, with the rest to be let go next year. The 32-megawatt plant is about 25 times smaller than a conventional fossil-fuel power plant; it was built in 1983 and converted from burning coal to biomass fuel in 2008.

In its appeal to McCrory, who worked nearly three decades at Duke Energy, and the other Republicans, ReEnergy says the CCCP plant was one of the largest tax payers in the region, generated over $15 million in economic impact, and paid an average wage of $29 an hour.