Duke Wants Public To Pay For Unneeded Gas Plant

Duke Energy Just Filed For A New Methane Gas Plant. We May Be Stuck With The Bill

Without even waiting for approval of its overall plans to spend billions on a massive increase in burning planet-heating fossil gas, Duke Energy has filed for approval of its first huge new gas-burning plant. And Duke wants the public to pay for it.

On March 15, Duke filed its petition to the NC Utilities Commission (NCUC) for a “certificate of public convenience and necessity” for a proposed new 850 MW gas-burning plant in Catawba County. If this petition is granted, the NCUC will have officially declared the plant to be necessary to meet public power demands—and Duke Energy would be guaranteed huge profits for building this massive mistake. Even worse, Duke will use the approval to argue that its as-yet unapproved plan to radically increase reliance on burning dirty gas is a done deal, despite its disastrous climate impacts.

Unproven and Contradictory Assumptions

Duke’s filing is a case study of unproven assumptions of remarkable growth in electric demand and an assertion that burning more fossil fuels is the only practical way to meet that demand. Incredibly, Duke’s brief filing relies on its claim that burning more fossil gas is the cheapest way to go, while declaring that the cost of building this new gas-burning plant is “confidential!” 

“We at NCLCV are not surprised to see Duke moving forward with expensive, unnecessary methane gas,” says Michelle (Meech) Carter, NCLCV’s Clean Energy Campaigns Director. “Duke claims that their proposed path is the ‘most reasonable, least cost, and least risk,’ while in fact it is irresponsibly risky. Duke assumes methane gas infrastructure can be converted to hydrogen, an unproven technology, while ignoring reliable and immediately available technologies like solar and wind.” 

It also completely ignores the energy-saving potential of increased efficiencies in new construction and retrofits to existing buildings. A new study released earlier this month shows that these alone could get North Carolina much of the way toward meeting its carbon reduction plans. 

Why You Would Have To Pay For It

Duke Energy is a monopoly regulated by the NC Utilities Commission (NCUC), which sets rates and approves spending plans submitted by Duke for energy generation and grid improvements, including the profit margin. Duke Energy is also a publicly-traded corporation whose primary goal is to make money for its investors. The NCUC guarantees Duke a ~10% profit on its capital investments, while the cost of those investments and any increases in fuel costs are passed directly to customers.  Duke also received the largest rate increase in history last year. So how did that work out for Duke? In 2023, Duke Energy made $4.3 Billion and paid their CEO $21 Million in 2022. Read more here.

Our Work To Hold Duke Accountable

NCLCV and other concerned groups and officials are preparing more detailed challenges to Duke’s irresponsible new gamble. We will publish more information in future reports. For a longer look at previous critiques of Duke’s unapproved and disastrous proposed modifications to the North Carolina Carbon Plan, see this article.

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