Our goal is to have the best possible plan with the least impact on property owners, the environment and the communities we serve, said Robert Sipes, general manager of delivery operations for the Western Carolinas. Concerns about the transmission line and substation and the potential impact on tourism and mountain views we all enjoy are significant.
We want the thousands of property owners and others to know we are listening, and we very much appreciate their patience, Sipes added. The job for the Duke Energy team is to offer solutions to as many concerns as we can, including possible alternatives to the transmission line and substation, while also meeting the regions growing expectation for cleaner and reliable power.
Sipes noted that the overall modernization plan is addressing a very real problem that is not going away. Power demand, particularly on the coldest and hottest days of the year, will continue to grow, and the regions electrical infrastructure must be upgraded to meet that increased demand.
Since 1970, peak power demand has increased by more than 360 percent in Duke Energy Progress' western region, which serves 160,000 customers in nine Western North Carolina counties. Ensuring power reliability was particularly difficult during the winters of 2014 and 2015, when peak demand was 30 percent higher than in 2013. Over the next decade, continued population and business growth is expected to increase overall power demand by 15 percent.
This effort includes the early retirement of Ashevilles coal plant, replacing it with a much cleaner natural gas plant and adding solar generation to the Asheville Power Plant site.
The proposed natural gas plant is expected to produce electricity less expensively than the existing coal plant which is often dispatched to ensure the regions power reliability even when it is not economical. These savings will be shared with customers across North Carolina and South Carolina through Duke Energys joint dispatch and fuel purchasing agreement. This allows Duke Energy Carolinas and Duke Energy Progress to collectively dispatch power plants and purchase fuel as efficiently as possible. Since the companies merged in July 2012, this has saved customers more than $520 million.
The new gas plant will significantly reduce air emissions and water use at the Asheville power plant site. It also will enable the company to cancel plans for new coal-ash handling systems and a smaller and less efficient oil-fired power plant because these projects will no longer be necessary.
For more information about the Foothills transmission project, see the companys website at: https://www.duke-energy.com/western-carolinas-modernization/foothills.asp.