MountainTrue Calls for Duke Energy to Justify WNC “Modernization” Plan

Duke Energy’s so-called “Modernization” Plan doubles down on fossil fuels and threatens to disrupt hundreds of property owners, sensitive habitats, and the visual beauty of Western North Carolina’s mountains. In an August 2 article in the Hendersonville Times-News, Duke Energy cites “explosive” growth and increased energy demand in WNC to justify both a bigger fossil-fueled power plant at Lake Julian and a massive and expensive 56-mile network of high-voltage transmission lines between WNC and Campobello, South Carolina. However, Duke has so far not provided solid data to back up their claim or an explanation WNC deserves.

While Asheville and other areas are growing, according to the NC Office of State Management and Budget, outlooks through 2020 indicate WNC will see only moderate or low population growth across all 23 counties.

Additionally, population growth does not necessarily mean a proportional growth in demand for electricity and per capita demand is decreasing with more efficient construction and appliance standards. Duke Energy’s focus on the growth of peak energy use disregards even its own programs designed to reduce consumer demand (see more about those here). These programs are working, so why not increase those efforts?

Notably, Duke has failed to show why further investment in fossil fuels is the best choice for our region rather than unlocking the full potential of renewable energy to meet electricity needs.  By moving forward with a gas-fired plant, Duke Energy is committing WNC to a dependence on fossil fuel and denying the rapidly accelerating reality of affordable renewable energy resources.

Duke Energy relies on the same population argument when justifying the need for its proposed expansive network of transmission lines, but has not provided a cost comparison for upgrading existing lines. Duke maintains that these lines are needed to supply WNC extra power during peak seasonal energy usage, but a company spokesperson told the Hendersonville Times-News that “the lines will be able to send power both ways.” It is our belief that WNC does not want to be an exporter of energy to South Carolina. And again, Duke has yet to make a convincing case for this level of infrastructure, or address whether the proposed lines impact the ability to import cleaner renewable energy from other parts of the state and country.

We still need answers. Duke is guaranteed a rate of return on all capital investments, and has a profit incentive to build both of these large projects. Duke has made broad statements of need, but still has not released a true detailed analysis demonstrating that need. All of these factors should be examined together to ensure Duke is proposing the least impactful project both in terms of the environment and rates.

In the absence of this analysis, and by locking WNC into a fossil fuel future with these oversized projects, this plan appears to be a backward-looking “Fossilization” plan rather than a true “Modernization” plan.

Want to know more? Find out if your property is in the crosshairs of Duke’s plans for transmission lines and submit your comments (whether or not you’re impacted) at bit.ly/DukeLines.

Contact: Brian Postelle, Interim Communications Manager
(828) 258-8737
brian@mountaintrue.org


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.