Ruling on Duke’s Asheville plant mixed; proposed third unit not approved
Conservation groups expressed some reservations about today’s mixed decision by the North Carolina Utilities Commission on Duke Energy’s proposal to build a new gas-fired power plant in Western North Carolina. In a brief Notice of Decision, the commission announced its conclusion to issue a “certificate of public convenience and necessity” to Duke for two 280 megawatt (MW) natural gas, combined cycle units to replace the existing 379 MW coal plant when it retires in 2020.
At the same time, the commission respected the recommendation of its public staff and calls from the public by denying Duke’s request for early approval of a third, 186 MW combustion turbine unit that Duke claimed it might need in 2023, if at all.
“We’re disappointed in the North Carolina Utilities Commission’s decision to approve Duke Energy’s plans for a huge new gas-fired power plant near Asheville,” said Senior Attorney Gudrun Thompson. “We welcome Duke’s long-overdue commitments to retire the Asheville coal plant in 2020 and clean up the leaking coal ash basins at the site. And we agree with the commission’s decision to deny Duke’s premature application for the third unit. But replacing the coal plant with an oversized, billion-dollar gas plant will lock the region into dependence on dirty fossil-fueled power for decades, when the rest of the nation is transitioning to cleaner, cheaper energy resources.”
Under a special law passed in 2015, the commission had only 45 days to make a decision on Duke’s proposal. The commission will issue a more detailed decision at a later date.