- The South Carolina Public Service Commission approved Duke Energy’s request to build a new natural gas plant alongside an operating coal-fired plant but turned aside renewables advocates’ call to require Duke to add a 375 megawatt solar power plant at the site.
- The Coastal Conservation League and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy wanted the PSC to make the gas plant’s construction contingent on a Duke commitment to build solar. Regulators instead told Duke to “consider cost-effective solar” when planning its “future generation mix.”
- Renewables advocates also asked the PSC to delay the gas plant’s in-service date to 2018 but the commission left it to Duke to decide when projected electricity demand and costs warrant proceeding. The utility said it will make its decision on proceeding later this spring. Construction is expected to provide 500 jobs.
Renewables advocates see in this type of planning a contradiction between Duke’s actions and its public declarations that it wants solar for its South Carolina energy mix. More likely, it is Duke attempting to come to terms with three basic factors profoundly affecting most utilities’ planning decisions:
- EPA emissions regulations are forcing coal plant retirements
- Increasing quantities of increasingly affordable renewables are the future
- New affordable natural gas supplies and new natural gas plants will cost-effectively meet the immediate need to replace the coal as base-load generation and the longer-term need to accommodate renewables with flexible generation.