Add 16 GW solar, 10 GW storage in North Carolina, says alternative resource plan

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Duke Energy’s “flawed modeling assumptions” for its 2020 North Carolina resource plan favor new natural gas capacity over new renewables and storage, and the utility’s resource scenarios are “not least-cost,” says a regulatory filing from the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association and the Carolinas Clean Energy Business Association.

The two groups and three others hired the consulting firm Synapse to “correct several flaws” and prepare an alternative resource plan using the EnCompass utility model.

That alternative plan would add 16 GW of solar, 10 GW of storage, and 2.5 GW of onshore wind in North Carolina by 2035, and would reduce system costs by $7.2 billion compared to Duke Energy’s least-cost plan, say the groups in a separate filing. The three groups joining that filing are the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Sierra Club, and Natural Resources Defense Council.

The alternative resource plan would add 3.1 GW of the selected renewable capacity by 2026, assuming “reasonable limits” on annual renewable capacity additions, which are assumed to rise over time due to industry learning and improved resources.

NCSEA, with 174 member businesses, and trade association CCEBA say that the Synapse modeling corrected only some of the issues that their five expert witnesses and Synapse identified, while it kept many of Duke’s assumptions.

The alternative plan would retire coal based on Duke’s earliest practicable retirement schedule and build no new gas, while deploying solar and battery storage capacity and maintaining a 17% reserve margin.

“Without direction from the North Carolina Utilities Commission, Duke plans a massive buildout of gas power plants,” said a statement from the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

A utility’s resource plan typically serves as the basis for an application for a certificate to build a new power plant, notes a filing from SACE, the Sierra Club and NRDC.

The filings are available under the North Carolina Utilities Commission’s Docket E-100 Sub 165.

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