Offsetting Natural Gas with Solar at the SC Court of Appeals

Chris Carnevale | January 20, 2016 | Energy Policy

SC Court of AppealsLast Thursday, SACE and partner groups Coastal Conservation League and Southern Environmental Law Center, were at the South Carolina Court of Appeals to continue trying to save electric customers money and reduce the environmental impacts of electricity generation in a no-regrets solar deployment strategy.

In response to Duke Energy’s proposal to build a 750 megawatt natural gas plant at the Lee Steam Station near Anderson, SC, we proposed that Duke offset some of its operational costs with solar power. Eighty to ninety percent of the cost of energy from the proposed gas plant would be from the cost of fuel, so where it is possible to save money by using solar as a zero-fuel-cost substitute while dialing down the gas generation, we think it is a win-win situation.

Last week’s appeal was the next step after we originally made the proposal to the South Carolina Public Service Commission in February 2014. We requested that the Commission’s certification for the power plant be conditioned upon requiring Duke to issue a request for proposals for low-cost solar energy at a price equal to or less than the cost they would pay for running the gas plant, which would mean the same amount of electricity at the same or lower price with lesser environmental impact.

The Commission’s order did not respond directly to our proposal, instead assuming solar capacity would replace gas capacity (rather than simply replacing gas-generated MWh with solar-generated MWh, for the same overall capacity). Thus they issued the certificate for the gas plant without due consideration of the win-win cost saving strategy we proposed, which brings us to our appeal.

We believe that the Public Service Commission is obligated to ensure that Duke is earnestly considering ways to minimize the environmental impact of the proposed plant. In the course of the hearing last week, the judges asked good questions and our attorneys from the Southern Environmental Law Center laid out our case well. We will continue to work through this process with our partners and will keep you updated.

Chris Carnevale
Chris is SACE’s Climate Advocacy Director. Chris joined the SACE staff in 2011 to help with building public understanding and engagement around clean energy solutions to the climate crisis. Chris…
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