Duke Energy Changes Power Plan For Western NC
In response to a flood of criticism, Duke Energy is changing its plan to power the western Carolinas. It's still replacing a coal plant in Asheville with natural gas, but the company will not build a transmission line through the mountains.
Duke Energy received more than 9,000 comments on the project, and much of the outcry focused on the transmission line.
Southern Environmental Law Center attorney D.J. Gerken says the large power line would've been a visual scar that cut through conservation lands and fragmented habitats.
"The transmission line as they had drawn it, all of the potential routes went through some incredibly important resources in the upstate of South Carolina and western North Carolina," Gerken says.
That line would've in part served as a backup for a huge natural gas plant. But Duke Energy is scrapping that part of the plan.
Spokesman Tom Williams says by building two smaller natural gas plants instead, the company won't need as much of a backup.
"We heard the community," he says. "We found a different way. Now we need the community's involvement to help us avoid building a third unit at the plant site."
Williams says a third natural gas plant will be necessary if the region's energy use keeps growing the way Duke projects. That was the reason for the giant plant in the original proposal.
But throughout the comment process, Williams says people have made clear they're willing to reduce consumption and improve energy efficiency.
Environmental advocates say the new natural gas plant will certainly be an improvement over the old coal plant. If Duke needs additional power, they'll pressure the company to use much cleaner sources like wind and solar energy.