The owner of a natural gas-fueled power plant in South Carolina says it could supply the electricity Duke Energy needs in Asheville, where Duke plans to build its own new plant.
Columbia Energy LLC owns the 523-megawatt power plant in Gaston, S.C., near Columbia.
Columbia says that under federal law Duke is “legally obligated to purchase Columbia’s energy and capacity” at a price that reflects the amount Duke would avoid by not building a new plant.
Duke, in response, said the plan to build two gas-fired units in Asheville remain its best option. New electrical capacity for the area needs to be generated locally, said spokeswoman Meghan Miles.
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Duke filed for construction approval from the North Carolina Utilities Commission on Jan. 15. Under fast-track legislation passed last year, the commission has 45 days to rule.
Columbia this week asked the commission for permission to become a formal party to the case. The commission hasn’t yet responded.
Columbia has “offered to provide its capacity and energy at lower costs than would otherwise be incurred by (Duke’s) customers” if the Asheville permit is approved, its filing said.
An official of LS Power Development LLC, a New Jersey company referred to in Columbia’s filing, could not be reached Wednesday.
Duke wants to replace a 379-megawatt coal plant with two gas units generating 280 megawatts each. Duke might also add a 186-megawatt gas unit in a few years.
The proposal has been scaled back once to scrap a new transmission line from South Carolina to Asheville that drew thousands of protests. But energy advocates still question Duke’s need for the new gas units and its continued reliance on fossil fuels.