Western Carolinas Modernization
Powering the Western Carolinas
More than 7.3 million customers in the Southeast and Midwest count on us for electricity 24/7, and we're committed to delivering it in a safe, reliable and affordable way. Over the next few years, we're upgrading our system in the Western Carolinas to meet growing power demand, ensuring reliability and reducing our environmental footprint.
For questions related to the Western Carolinas Modernization Project work, call 800.820.9359 or email WCModernization@duke-energy.com.
In the past four decades, customers' peak electricity use in Duke Energy Progressí Western region, which serves 160,000 customers across nine counties, has more than tripled. Over the next decade, this demand is expected to grow by more than 15 percent.
In May, we announced a comprehensive, longer-term solution to cost-effectively serve customers. In November 2015, a revised modernization plan for the region was announced to meet the regionís power demand that is better fit for the community. The proposal balances public input, environmental impacts and our need to provide customers with safe, reliable and affordable electricity.
The new plan for meeting the growing energy needs of the Western Carolinas allows time for innovation and additional technologies to be developed that can be used to address future energy needs. The Foothills Transmission Line and substation near Campobello, S.C. projects are no longer needed.
Asheville Coal Plant Retirement
The 376-megawatt Asheville Plant has served the region well since 1964, and will continue to serve customers until the new natural gas plants come on line. We expect to retire the two coal units by early 2020.
Natural Gas Plants
The proposed two 280-megawatt natural gas-fired combined-cycle power plants will be located at the current Asheville coal plant site. It will generate enough electricity to power about 448,000 homes. The plant is scheduled to begin serving customers by late 2019.
The company will file a future Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) application for additional peaking generation if necessary.
Media: Right-click on this link to download b-roll of Duke Energy's combined-cycle power plants across North Carolina.
Energy Efficiency and Demand Side Management
We're partnering with customers and communities to develop innovative ways to leverage energy efficiency, demand-side management, renewables and technology projects to manage peak demand and defer or eliminate the need for additional generation infrastructure.
Ash Basin Closure
We're continuing to remove and safely reuse coal ash from the Asheville power plant site. Since 2007, we have been moving ash from the plant to the Asheville Regional Airport as part of a fully lined structural fill project at the taxiway. View video.
Media: Right-click on this link to download b-roll of the Asheville Plant and ash basins.
Duke Energy supports solar and other forms of renewable energy. We plan to 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 Plantís 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. We will continue to evaluate other investments in renewables and other technologies to cost-effectively meet the needs of customers.
Coal Plant Retirement
Natural Gas Plant
Energy Efficiency and Demand Side Management
Ash Basin Closure
Begin to seek project approvals, permits and agreements, and start pipeline construction.
Begin construction of new natural gas plants.
Complete gas pipeline and new natural gas plants.
Retire Asheville Plant coal units and begin to install solar facility.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Duke Energy planning in Western North Carolina and South Carolina?
Following a comprehensive evaluation of the energy system, we've crafted a multi-faceted plan to meet the current and growing energy needs of the region.
The Western Carolinas Modernization Project includes:
- Retiring the 376-megawatt (MW) Asheville coal units; excavating the ash and closing the basin.
- Building two 280-megawatt (winter rating) combined-cycle power plants on the Asheville coal plant site to take advantage of historically low gas prices.
- Working with the local gas distribution company to upgrade an existing intrastate gas pipeline that will serve the region beginning in 2019 and will provide a firm fuel supply to the new combined-cycle natural gas plant.
- Building new transmission infrastructure and upgrading related area substation infrastructure.
- Continuing to move ahead on coal ash excavation and ash basin closure at the Asheville power plant site.
We also plan to seek approval to install a minimum of 5 megawatts of utility-scale electricity storage and a minimum of 15 megawatts of new solar generation over the next seven years after the Asheville Plantís coal units have been decommissioned and coal ash excavation is completed in the Duke Energy Progress West region. The company will file a future Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) application for additional peaking generation if necessary. And, we will continue to evaluate other investments in renewables and other technologies to cost-effectively meet the needs of customers.
These investments provide economical and long-term reliability for the region while reducing our environmental footprint.
Why did Duke Energy revise the Western Carolinas Modernization plan?
Our unwavering commitment is to serve all of our customers with safe, reliable, affordable power, generated as cleanly and efficiently as possible. And we want to do that in a way thatís respectful of our customers and communities. Public input was imperative in this process and we clearly heard that most everyone wanted us to explore all options/alternatives for meeting the growing energy needs of the region.
The revised plan strikes that balance of addressing concerns from the public, minimizing environmental impact and meeting our schedule of being able to supply much needed generation to this growing area.
What is the cost to customers?
The company will be working with major suppliers of key components for the plant to further refine the overall cost estimate, but we expect the costs to essentially be the same as the original plan of approximately $1.1 billion.
Once the project is complete, we will seek to recover these costs from Duke Energy Progress (DEP) customers through the regulatory process.
How do these projects contribute to the local tax base?
These projects represent a significant investment in the Western Carolinas region which, in turn, provides significant new regional tax base resulting from construction and ongoing operations of the facility.
Duke Energy evaluates property tax on an annual basis and files an annual property tax report as part of that review. The company will conduct the property tax assessment for both the soon-to-be retired coal plant and new natural gas plant over the next few years and submit a final filing closer to 2019 – 2020. Based on current Buncombe County tax rates, property taxes from the power plant are estimated to increase between 35 and 40 percent after the power plant site is modernized.
Why the urgency?
We have a unique opportunity to work with PSNC as a contracted customer on an existing intrastate natural gas pipeline which will bring a firm fuel source to the region. The timing of expanding the pipeline infrastructure to support Duke Energy's proposed gas generation in Asheville allows us to achieve project benefits as the timing is in sync with PSNC's project timeline.
The advanced timing meets future demand which is expected to grow by more than 15 percent in the next decade. The project enables us to meet current and future demand and supports industrial growth and future economic development. Since 2010 the Asheville Chamber of Commerce reports approximately 3,000 new jobs and $1 billion in commercial/industrial investments have been realized in the Asheville area. Further evidence of the rapid growth in this region is the 14 hotels that are currently under construction in Asheville.
Additionally, the proposed projects would allow Duke Energy to avoid investing approximately $200 million in a 124-megawatt oil power plant and new coal ash equipment on the power plant site.
What role can the public play in reducing the need for additional generation and/or transmission lines in the future?
Duke Energy is committed to serve the energy needs of our customers. We're equally committed to helping our customers better manage and reduce their overall energy usage, especially during times of peak demand.
An important aspect of the new plan is to work directly with our customers, communities and other stakeholders to place a more emphasis on energy efficiency, demand response, and renewables and technology projects that will help slow peak load growth. Through existing programs and innovative solutions to be developed, we can work together to help delay the need for additional generation.
Why are the Foothills Transmission Line and tie station near Campobello, S.C. no longer needed?
The Foothills Transmission Line and tie station near Campobello, S.C. are no longer required because the revised plan includes two 280-megawatt combined-cycle power plants that will serve the region's current and future energy needs.
Having multiple units provides the redundancy we need for reliability in the region. The units will also be designed to run on oil as a backup in the event there are any disruptions of the natural gas supply. Additionally, we will work with the community to increase participation in energy efficiency, demand-side management, technology and renewable programs and projects to help manage peak demand.
What will Duke Energy do with the property it purchased for the substation in Campobello, S.C. now that the transmission line is no longer needed?
The company has property all across the Carolinas and its other service areas. This property will simply be part of those landholdings. The company no longer has any current plans for this property.
Is the proposed Foothills Transmission line dead once and for all?
The Foothills transmission line project is no longer necessary. However, the company builds and maintains its infrastructure to meet growing needs of customers and comply with regulatory and federal standards and requirements. We have an obligation and responsibility to continue to enhance the reliability of the grid and overall system for all of our customers. As communities grow, we must grow with it to power their daily lives. Any future transmission lines and substations will be based on growth and regulatory needs at that time.
Is the revised plan superior to the original? If so, why didn't you propose it first? If not, where is it deficient?
The initial plan was the best technical solution and more robust for the long-term, but it wasn't the best practical solution. After receiving feedback from the community throughout public input process, we revised the plan to strike the balance of addressing concerns from the public, minimizing environmental impact and meeting our schedule of being able to supply much needed generation to this growing area.
We are eager to continue working with the community to reduce power demand across the region through energy efficiency, demand response and renewable energy and technology to avoid building another power unit on the Asheville site for as long as possible.
Natural Gas Pipeline
What is Duke Energy's role in the construction of the new pipeline?
There is an existing natural gas pipeline in the region. Duke Energy is working with the local gas distribution company (PSNC) to upgrade the pipeline to accommodate and serve the proposed natural gas-fired combined-cycle power plant. This upgrade will expand the critical infrastructure that will help support industrial growth and economic development in the Western Carolinas region, and provide a firm fuel supply to the proposed natural gas plant.
Where will the pipeline be located?
The extension of the pipeline will run through an existing PSNC right-of-way area, which runs from Kings Mountain to Arden, North Carolina. The extension will connect to the larger intrastate Transco gas pipeline which runs from the Gulf to New York. For more information, please contact PSNC or visit their website: psncenergy.com/pipeline.
When will the pipeline begin operating?
Based on the current schedule, the pipeline has an in-service date of early 2019.
Where will the new pipeline infrastructure receive gas supply from?
PSNC will receive natural gas sourced from the Transco system.
Who will approve the pipeline agreement between PSNC and Duke Energy Progress?
The local distribution company will file the agreement with the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC). Duke Energy is simply a customer of this pipeline. PSNC will also work with stakeholders and other agencies along the route to ensure the pipeline expansions have all the needed permits and approvals prior to construction and operation.
Why does Duke Energy need to build a new power plant?
As identified in the Duke Energy Progress 2014 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), the company projects the need for new generating capacity by 2020 as a result of the following:
- Load growth
- Retirement of aging and less efficient coal units, and
- The expiration of purchase power contracts
Building a highly efficient natural gas plant is part of the company's plan to meet future demand for reliable, affordable electricity. Natural gas-fired combined-cycle power plants also offer economic and environmental advantages compared to other generation options.
Why is Duke Energy replacing the coal units with larger capacity combined-cycle units?
The Western Carolinas region continues to experience residential, commercial and industrial growth. The new combined-cycle units will help meet current and future energy demand for homes, schools and businesses in the region. Currently peak demand increases approximately 25 megawatts per year. These generation projects take years to license and build so it's always prudent to plan for future growth.
Why are the new combine cycle units being designed for dual fuel, natural gas and ultra-low sulfur fuel oil?
Duke Energy will contract for firm (uninterruptible) natural gas supply in excess of the needs of the new combined cycle units. As a result, it is anticipated that total fuel oil consumed will be reduced from current levels at the Asheville facility because some fuel oil currently consumed in the existing simple cycle units will be offset by firm natural gas. The combined cycle units will be dual fuel capable to ensure electrical system reliability in the rare event of an interruption in the natural gas supply to the site.
Who will need to approve the combined-cycle plant before construction begins?
The project requires approval from various local, state and federal governing bodies and regulatory agencies, including the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the North Carolina Utilities Commission.
Where will the combined-cycle units be located?
The natural gas-fired combined-cycle power plant will be constructed on the existing Asheville Plant site. It will have a footprint of approximately 25 acres.
Where will the plant get its natural gas?
There is an existing pipeline in the Asheville region. Duke Energy is working with the local distribution company to upgrade the pipeline to accommodate and serve the proposed natural gas plant.
When will the new combined-cycle power plant be operational?
The natural gas plant will begin serving customers in late 2019 or early 2020.
Retiring the coal plant and Ash Excavation
When will Duke Energy retire the coal units?
Based on the current schedule, the company will retire the coal units in early 2020, once the natural gas-fired combined-cycle power plant begins serving customers. The coal units will continue to reliably serve the region until the natural gas plant is ready for operation.
What happens to the units once retired?
Once the units are retired, they will be decommissioned. This is a comprehensive and methodical process that takes several years and involves site characterization studies and engineering analyses to determine the best site-specific decisions. The long-term vision for retired units across our system is to return them to ground-level. We will salvage what equipment we can and repurpose at other sites, conduct any environmental abatement needed, sell any scrap material we can, safely dismantle and remove the powerhouse, stack and any auxiliary structures no longer needed and then restore the site. This approach is best suited to ensure continued safety, security and environmental compliance at the site both for the company and the community.