BlueNC, scharrison, 1/6/2023
The deep freeze on Christmas weekend exposed major flaws in their approach:
The first domino fell in Duke Energy Carolinas territory, which serves 2.5 million residential, commercial and industrial customers. Starting at midnight on Christmas Eve, utility officials cut back power at the Dan River combined cycle plant, which runs largely on natural gas, to 360 MW, roughly half of its capacity, said Sam Holeman, vice president of transmission. (This is also known as derating.) Some of the plant’s instrumentation had frozen, and to prevent the facility from failing altogether, operators had to reduce the strain. The Buck plant in Salisbury encountered low pressure issues and had to be derated after peak energy usage had passed.
Solar energy “performed as expected,” Duke officials said, although it was not available overnight during the peak hours of 2 to 6 a.m.
It could have been available to ease that burden if Duke had dedicated more resources to battery storage in NC:
In the city of Asheville, a 9-megawatt (MW) lithium-ion Samsung battery system is operating next to a Duke Energy substation in the Shiloh community. With a total cost of less than $15 million, the project will primarily be used to help the electric system operate more efficiently. It will provide energy support to the electric system, including frequency regulation and other grid support services.
Battery storage offers many benefits to customers. Duke Energy has plans to invest $600 million for 375 MW of energy storage across its regulated businesses.
“Energy storage will play a significant role in how we deliver energy to customers now and into the future as we act to reduce carbon emissions by at least 50% by 2030 and achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050,” said Stephen De May, Duke Energy’s North Carolina president.
Duke Energy has more than a decade of experience with battery storage. At one time, the company’s 36-MW battery system next to the company’s Notrees Wind Facility in Texas was the largest battery operating in the United States. It remains one of the country’s biggest.
Get that? NC gets a measly 9 megawatts battery storage (largest in the state) in 2020, but that 36 megawatt system in Texas came online in 2013. In other words, they've had the technology and the resources available to boost NC's storage capacity, but have mostly demurred. Keep in mind, our state is the 3rd largest producer of Solar electricity in the country. More batteries here is a no-brainer, and yet Duke is spending hundreds of millions building batteries in the 9th-ranked solar state (Florida):
By the end of 2022, Duke Energy says the six projects in Florida will have a combined 50MW power. The other three are in Jennings (5.5MW/5.5MWh), Micanopy (8.25MW/11.7MWh), and a 1.5MW/2.5MW solar-plus-storage microgrid at a school in Pinellas County. The company has previously said that installing storage is an economic alternative to building out its distribution grid.
Florida has been slower than other states like California and Texas when it comes to adding energy to its grid. But it did recently unveil the largest BESS to be be paired with solar PV late last year.
While more battery storage here in NC is part of Duke's Carbon Plan, it's a small part. Much smaller than it should be, considering the 6+ Gigawatts we are currently producing.
WRAL, Carrie Clark, 1/5/2023
The lessons from the Christmas storm and big chill are clear: Climate change is causing more extreme and unpredictable weather; Gas and coal aren't always dependable in extreme weather, while renewable energy with battery storage is more reliable.
Duke Energy’s rolling blackouts across North Carolina on December 24 and 25 were the Christmas present nobody wanted. The blackouts were Duke’s response to high demand and frigid temperatures, which were not anticipated by Duke and their equipment and backup plans were unable to handle.
This is what we learned from a meeting Gov. Roy Cooper called with Duke executives on Tuesday, followed by a hearing before the North Carolina Utilities Commission on the same issue. Gov. Cooper demanded answers from Duke, as did the Utilities Commission.
Duke accepted responsibility for the outages and helped us better understand the failure. Four key takeaways emerged:
- Duke didn’t anticipate a storm of this magnitude because we haven’t experienced one before, so their forecasts were wrong;
- Duke’s gas and coal-fired power plants were less effective in extreme cold;
- Additional backup power wasn’t available from neighboring states because they were facing similar conditions from the storm;
- Duke said renewable energy resources performed as expected, and that the outages did not occur because of renewable energy generation.
This event is similar to the one that happened in my native Texas in 2021, which cost the lives of 246. We are incredibly fortunate that North Carolina didn’t suffer a similar loss of life. However, unfortunately, the same mindset prevails in power generation. North Carolina and Texas overwhelmingly rely on coal and natural gas as the primary resources to produce electricity.
Yahoo News, AP, 1/4/2023
Duke Energy Corp. executives on Tuesday blamed a convergence of widespread extreme cold, higher than projected demand, malfunctioning plant equipment and the inability to buy power elsewhere for rolling blackouts on Christmas Eve — the first for the company in the Carolinas.
Addressing state electric regulators, company leaders apologized because about 500,000 customers, or 11%, of its Duke Energy Carolinas and Duke Energy Progress subsidiary customers were subjected to the designed temporary outages, often with little notice. While power was restored to everyone before the sun went down Dec. 24, morning temperatures fell into the single digits and afternoon highs failed to reach freezing in many areas.
“I want to express how sorry we are for what our customers experienced,” Duke Energy Carolinas CEO Julie Janson told the North Carolina Utilities Commission at a briefing. “We own what happened. We have set out on a path to ensure that if we’re faced with similar challenges, we will see a different outcome and provide a better customer experience.”
Charlotte Business Journal, John Downey, 11/14/2022
A recent order that Duke Energy Corp.’s utilities procure 1,200 megawatts of solar capacity in 2022 disappointed industry advocates and left them worried it might presage less than they hoped for in the N.C. Carbon Plan.
Two members of N.C. Utilities Commission also raised concerns about the early November order. Commissioner Dan Clodfelter wrote a partial dissent, joined by commissioner Jeff Hughes, proposing that more solar procurement now would better position the utilities to accomplish the carbon plan’s 2030 requirement of reducing carbon emissions to 70% of 2005 levels.
The dissent centers on a decision the commission made dividing how the new procurement should be divided between Duke Energy Carolinas and Duke Energy Progress. But a little under half of the 1,600-word dissent addresses the risk that the low megawatt requirement in the order risks leaving Duke unable to meet the reduction targets.
Order should 'test the limits' of Duke's ability to add solar to grid
The contracts made for solar procurement in this order would be built in 2023 and 2024. Clodfelter’s dissent acknowledges that Duke (NYSE: DUK) and the commission’s Public Staff, which is the state’s utility customer advocate, see legitimate challenges that risk the company’s ability to connect larger amounts of solar during that period.
NC WARN, 3/29/2022
Three climate justice nonprofits today filed a joint challenge to Duke Energy’s proposal to change the economics of solar panels on North Carolina homes. They say Duke’s plan would harm all North Carolinians – especially low-income people already bearing the financial and climate impacts of Duke Energy’s business model of hugely expanding the use of fracked gas, stifling cheaper renewables and repeatedly raising power bills.
NC WARN attorney Matt Quinn, also representing Sunrise Durham and the NC Climate Solutions Coalition, filed initial comments in the controversial Utilities Commission (NCUC) case based on an engineer’s analysis. The groups are calling for the regulators to reject Duke Energy’s rules changes as unlawful and out of touch with state climate policies.
Seventeen NC solar companies have called on Governor Cooper to protect their growing industry from Duke’s attack, and 54 nonprofits also oppose the deal. Five trade and environmental nonprofits support the proposed changes to net metering, a process whereby utilities provide credit for the excess solar energy that homes feed onto the power grid.
Key elements of today’s joint filing against Duke’s plan include:
∞ A 2017 law plainly states that the NCUC must study the costs and benefits of net metering prior to any rules change. Duke opposes such a study, and excludes solar benefits in its internal analysis. Attorney General Josh Stein has called for a delay in the proceeding until independent cost-benefit and climate impact analyses are completed. Multiple studies show that net metering is a benefit for non-solar customers.
∞ Duke Energy’s own, newly exposed data show company officials knew their plan would cut value to countless homes adding solar panels by a market-choking 30 percent. Solar installers calculate a 25-35% drop for their average customers.
∞ The Duke plan would cause solar customers to pay the highest rates for grid power exactly when the sun is going down and little solar power is being generated (6-9 pm in summer) – despite Duke’s own 2021 pilot study that was successful with an on-peak window of 2-8pm.
∞ Duke’s changes would penalize all potential solar customers, particularly those on low and fixed incomes. Duke says it will devise a plan for low-income customers at some unspecified future time. The justice groups reject that as a hollow pledge, and propose a system-wide, on-bill financing program like the one in Hawaii that would share solar benefits equitably between all electricity customers, help slow the climate crisis and protect power bills.
∞ Duke plans to impose extravagant minimum bills upon solar customers – without providing justification and while ignoring the fact that more rooftop solar would displace much of the billions Duke wants to spend on grid upgrades.
Comments by the partner organizations:
Sunrise Durham’s Ziyad Habash: We are proud to intervene against Duke Energy’s plan to rig rooftop solar policy in its favor and squeeze the solar panel owners who threaten its monopoly. Duke Energy cannot be allowed to put rooftop solar further out of reach for working people, and the Utilities Commission should reject the proposal. Instead, North Carolina should turn its attention to promoting policies that reward, not punish, people who install solar panels on their homes.
NC Climate Solutions Coalition’s Gayle Goldsmith: It is essential that the NC Utilities Commission saves rooftop solar. The NC Climate Solutions Coalition is a party to the intervention filed by NC WARN because rooftop solar is one solution to the climate issue. The commission must disallow Duke Energy from adding costs that discourage customers from installing solar panels by making them financially out of their reach.
NC WARN’s Jim Warren: For 10 years, Duke executives have led the national fight against renewable energy – and fought against an honest, independent study of solar’s true value in this monopoly state. Duke’s sole argument for its proposed rules change – that solar homes don’t pay their fair share compared to non-solar households – cannot survive an impartial study that assesses solar costs and benefits. But that’s what the law (HB589) plainly requires the Utilities Commission to perform.
PV Magazine, Tim Sylvia, 3/10/2021
A brownfield solar project proposed by Duke Energy just outside of Asheville in western North Carolina has brought together some unlikely alliances. The utility and a collection of climate activists, clean energy advocates, and community leaders face off against state officials who have argued that the project is costly and unnecessary.
The 5 MW project in question was set to be constructed on a former landfill in Buncombe County, as part of the county’s goal to reach 100% renewable energy by 2030. Because of the project’s location and the fact that it would bring the county roughly 20% closer to achieving its goal, the land was offered to Duke for next to no charge, providing significant cost reduction on an already cheap resource.
The project was initially announced in late July 2020, with completion expected for the second half of 2021.
The project was also set to be part of a 2015 compromise between Duke and the community and environmental leaders it is now allied with. The utility agreed to support a 45-mile proposed transmission line through the Blue Ridge Mountains with two gas peaker plants, 15 MW of solar, and 5 MW of battery storage in or near Asheville, rather than its initial plan of a 680 MW gas plant, with all of the capacity being used to replace a coal plant being retired in the city.