Experts Expose Risks of Duke’s Proposal for Costly, Polluting Roxboro, NC Gas Plant  

Duke plans to double down on climate-warming methane gas while recklessly risking customer dollars

June 25, 2024
Contact: Contact: Kathleen Sullivan, SELC, 919-945-7106, [email protected]

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Monopoly utility Duke Energy’s proposal for a new methane gas-fired power plant near Roxboro in Person County, North Carolina, has not been well planned, risking project delays and cost overruns, is not designed to comply with federal law, and would burden customers with the risk of paying for excessively costly infrastructure, experts noted in testimony filed by the Southern Environmental Law Center at the North Carolina Utilities Commission on behalf of clean energy advocates.

“Duke needs to rethink its methane gas plans in light of recent federal Clean Air Act rules that limit carbon pollution from new gas-fired power plants and to stay on track with meeting carbon emissions reduction requirements mandated by state law,” said David Neal, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “This is not the time to saddle North Carolina customers with enormous financial risk and lock in decades of exposure to pollution from burning fossil fuels.”

SELC filed the testimony on behalf of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, the Sierra Club, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, in a proceeding that will determine whether Duke’s plan can move forward (testimonies filed of Robert James and Dr. Elizabeth Stanton).

Experts testified that Duke has not done its homework to prepare for this proposed plant, which could expose Duke’s customers to delays and cost overruns. More importantly, Duke’s plans have not taken into account recent federal law that restricts carbon pollution from new methane gas plants. The law states that plants operating more than 40% of the time in a given year must meet strict carbon pollution limits. Experts noted that if Duke reduces the plant’s operating capacity in order to meet these requirements or attempts to convert the plant to run on hydrogen, customers’ costs would rise dramatically.

“Duke’s plan for the proposed Hyco Lake gas plant poses a massive financial threat to customers,” said Mikaela Curry, campaign manager at the Sierra Club. “Constructing an enormous, expensive methane gas-fired power plant designed to run around the clock, when other alternatives are available and federal law requires strict carbon pollution limits, defies logic and risks passing unnecessary costs onto North Carolinians.” 

In addition to disregarding federal law, Duke proposes a timeline for constructing the gas plant that would likely involve schedule delays, which are commonly associated with cost overruns.

“Duke Energy’s proposal for another pricey, dirty methane gas plant shows a total disregard for carbon emission rules and goals,” said Luis Martinez, senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Duke Energy’s poor planning puts ratepayers on the hook for this costly endeavor and sets us further behind in our goal to transition to clean, reliable  and affordable energy.”

Shelley Robbins, senior decarbonization manager at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, added, “At a time when state and federal law require a timely transition to clean energy, Duke plans to double down on climate-warming methane gas while recklessly risking customer dollars. Unlike carbon-free resources like solar, wind, and energy efficiency, gas worsens the already devastating impacts of climate change and has grown increasingly unreliable, as the 500,000 Carolinians who lost power on Christmas Eve in 2022 remember too well.” 

Duke plans to construct the gas-fired power plant in partnership with NCEMC – the generation and transmission utility for most of the state’s rural electric cooperatives – near Hyco Lake, the site of Duke’s Roxboro coal-fired power plant that it is retiring. Although a bipartisan North Carolina law requires Duke to rely on 100% clean, carbon-free energy by 2050, the regulated monopoly has proposed a massive buildout of methane gas, a fuel whose principal component warms the climate at 80 times the rate of carbon dioxide in the short term. Meanwhile, gas-fired power plants release harmful pollutants including formaldehyde and nitrogen oxides (NOx), which endanger the health of neighboring communities.