2 May 2007 - 10:13
  • News Code: 103654

After years of saying that alternative forms of energy production could not meet the needs of its growing customer base, Duke Energy has finally asked for bids from companies that generate power from sustainable sources.

The General Assembly is considering bills that require the state’s utilities to guarantee that a sizable portion of the electricity they sell comes from renewable sources such as wind, solar and water flow. Whether that is the impetus for Duke’s decision, or whether Duke finally saw the writing on the wall with regard to the emission of global-warming gases from coal-powered plants, the move is welcome.

Duke’s official call for bids says that the company wants to find electrical generators who can provide a reliable flow of energy by 2012.

The call comes at a good time for Duke. The state Utilities Commission just granted the company the authority to build one new coal-fired plant in Cliffside, which is west of Charlotte. The commission, however, rejected Duke’s bid to build a second coal-powered generator at the same site. Now a coalition of environmentalists argues that even the one plant is not needed, and they are petitioning the commission to reverse its decision.

Even with the best new technology for cleansing emissions, the new Cliffside plant will still spew an enormous amount of climate-changing gas into the atmosphere. Those new pollutants will come after North Carolina has spent the last 15 years increasing its climate-changing gas emissions at a rate surpassed by only three other states. North Carolina and the United States need to be cutting these emissions, not adding to them.

The cost of the plant will bump up against $2 billion and go higher if new air-quality technology becomes available as construction proceeds.

Environmentalists have applauded Duke’s call for bids, as well they should. The utility’s move to sustainable energy sources could make an enormous difference.

North Carolina is growing fast. Our energy demands will match that growth. Duke and the state’s other utilities are responsible for providing the energy we will need to maintain economic growth. By laying out the opportunity for sustainable energy providers to grow in North Carolina, Duke may be setting an example, and providing the road map, for the rest of the country to also put a greater emphasis on power from renewable sources.

As Duke reviews the bids it receives, the commission will be deciding whether it should reverse its Cliffside decision. The two are related.

With this request for bids, Duke has finally put North Carolina on the path of making a significant contribution to the fight against global warming.



News Code 103654

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