Log in Newsletter

PUBLIC WORKS COMMISSION

PWC considers relationship with Duke Energy Progress, renewable energy goals

Posted

As North Carolina pursues its plan to reduce carbon emissions over the next few decades, Fayetteville’s Public Works Commission is preparing to meet the state’s renewable energy goals — and reevaluating its relationship with Duke Energy Progress in the process.

At its Wednesday meeting, the commission heard a presentation from members of the consulting and engineering firm GDS Associates on the topic of PWC’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), a general roadmap for meeting renewable energy goals.  

Chris Dawson, a vice president at GDS Associates, said PWC currently buys “almost 100%” of its power supply from Duke, with the utility’s Butler-Warner Generation Plant supplementing that energy during the summer months when air-conditioning use increases energy needs. In this way, Dawon said PWC and Duke’s renewable energy tracks are closely aligned. 

“In North Carolina, there's legislation, there are laws in place today that are driving towards a carbon-free electric generation resource production, (so) that by 2050 we will be 100% carbon free,” Dawson said. 

“Duke Progress is also having to go down that same course, which means what they do — while we're still under that power supply agreement with them — affects us,” he added. “If they're 50% carbon free, we're 50% carbon free, more or less.” 

Duke Energy Progress is a subsidiary of Duke Energy, providing electricity to 1.7 million customers in North Carolina and South Carolina. Dawson explained that PWC amended its existing power supply agreement with Duke following negotiations that began in 2017, and the new agreement will go into effect in 2024. That agreement offers the utility the option to terminate its relationship with Duke in 2032, with PWC providing a three-year termination notice in 2029. 

According to the IRP, an offshoot of the amended agreement, there are a few alternatives PWC can pursue if it chooses to end the agreement with Duke and produce its own power supply. This would be predominantly through solar power coupled with battery storage, but it also could include utilizing offshore wind and running the Butler-Warner facility more often with its combined cycles. 

The consulting firm calculated the desirability of these options with consideration to power cost, volatility, carbon intensity, resilience and financial flexibility. So long as Duke continues to uphold its promises to cut emissions, Dawson said PWC sees the most effective path forward in upholding the state’s renewable energy goals as maintaining the current relationship with Duke and adding expanded solar capacity.     

“Not only do they have a high carbon-free portfolio today — a combination of nuclear and mostly solar — but they also are expecting, if you believe what they say, that they will be 70% carbon free by 2030,” Dawson said, “which means we will be 70% carbon free by 2030, subject to any other activities that we do, like pursue solar compliance.” 

That being the case, Dawson ultimately did not recommend any major investments or changes in the IRP, but noted that there are opportunities to reduce energy costs through demand-side management and compliance resources like community solar in the next few years. He said the Warner-Butler plan can also provide ratepayers and PWC with “extraordinary benefits” under the amended agreement by continuing to supplement power supply during critical usage times. 

At the same time, Dawson pointed out that Duke’s plans may change with future clean energy technology developments and PWC should continue to monitor those changes. 

“As we move forward over the next couple of years, there's going to be a lot of things that are going to change, including Duke Energy Progress's outlook for their own efforts to add new resources, to be carbon-free. to meet their own goals,” he said. “That affects our power cost. The investments they make translate directly into what we pay for our demand and energy rates from them.” 

Keeping these potential changes in mind, Dawson recommended on behalf of GDS Associate that the public utility re-evaluate its IRP again in three to four years. 

Directly following the presentation, the commission went into closed session to discuss confidential matters.    

New commissioner sworn in 

  • Mayor Mitch Colvin was present at Wednesday’s meeting to swear in the new member of the commission, Richard King. King, the former owner of King Electric of Fayetteville, was officially appointed to the commission by city council on Monday with the approval of its meeting consent agenda. King takes the place of Evelyn Shaw, who had been on the commission for the past eight years.  

“Certainly it's an honor and a privilege to participate in this swearing-in,” Colvin told King. “It’s a great team, and so we look forward to working with you as a new commissioner with PWC.” 

  • The commission elected members to officer positions for fiscal year 2024. In a unanimous decision, Donald Porter was elected as chairman, Chris Davis was elected as vice chairman, Ronna Garrett was elected as secretary and newly-appointed member Richard King was elected as treasurer. 

The next PWC meeting is at 8:30 a.m. Oct. 25. Meetings are open to the public and held at the PWC building at 955 Old Wilmington Rd. and live streamed on WebEx.   

Contact Evey Weisblat at eweisblat@cityviewnc.com or 216-527-3608. 

The CityView News Fund is a nonprofit organization that supports CityView’s newsgathering operation. Will you help us with a tax-deductible donation?

PWC, renewable energy, public works commission, power

X