The N.C. Utilities Commission has scheduled a Feb. 28 hearing in Charlotte on the 20-year growth plans of Duke Energy Carolinas and other North Carolina utilities.
The commission responded to hundreds of e-mails and petitions distributed by environmental advocacy groups in granting a second hearing, in Charlotte. Duke Energy subsidiaries Duke Energy Carolinas and Progress Energy Carolinas opposed an extra hearing.
An initial hearing will be held Monday night in Raleigh.
Electric utilities and electric cooperatives have to file Integrated Resource Plans, or IRPs, every two years. The plans project future demand for electricity and how the utilities and co-ops will meet it. Separately, the utilities report on their compliance with the states 2007 renewable-energy law.
Environmentalists see the plans as their chance to press Duke to move away from coal-fired and nuclear power plants and toward energy efficiency and solar and wind energy.
The N.C. Sustainable Energy Association wants the utilities to unveil confidential information about their renewable energy plans. This week the association asked the Utilities Commission to order Duke and Progress to release information they redacted from the public versions of their compliance plans.
The commission had earlier urged utilities to be more transparent about their renewable energy plans, saying the public is entitled to know what they are paying for. It will take comment through March on the associations request before ruling.
Duke Energy Carolinas plan, meanwhile, forecasts a 45 percent drop in coal use by 2032 and an 86 percent increase in natural gas.
Nuclear generation stays about the same, supplying half of the utilitys energy production. Renewable energy grows fast but still reaches only 3 percent of generation in 20 years.
The changes reflect the recent or upcoming retirements of 38 coal and gas-fueled power plant units, slowing demand and falling prices for natural gas, which has become a preferred fuel over coal. Duke Carolinas has or will soon open one new coal-fired plant and two gas-fired plants.
Duke Carolinas, which serves the Charlotte area, pushed back the need for new generating sources from 2015 to 2016. The plan attributes the change to lower demand, growing numbers of solar-energy contracts and a smaller gap between the utilitys peak generating capacity and expected power demand.
Dukes plan reaffirms its commitment to new nuclear plants, although that might be in collaboration with other utilities. Duke projects its proposed Lee plant, in Cherokee County, S.C., southwest of Charlotte, to start no sooner than 2022.
The Charlotte hearing will be at 7 p.m. Feb. 28 in courtroom 5310 of the Mecklenburg County Courthouse, 832 E. Fourth St.
Henderson: 704-358-5051 Twitter: @bhender
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