In a unique partnership, Duke Energy is working closely with environmentalists, community leaders, business owners and government officials in Asheville, N.C., to produce an energy efficiency plan specifically designed to delay the need for a new electricity generating unit.
Duke Energy has committed to close a half-century-old, coal-fired power plant in Asheville in 2019 – and replace it with a cleaner, natural gas-fired power plant, consisting of two generating units.
The company also might need to build a third generating unit to meet the fast-growing region’s future electricity demand. But, in an unusual move, the company is seeking active community participation in energy efficiency programs to delay the need for the third generating unit.
“Many folks in Asheville and Buncombe County have said, ‘Give us a chance to demonstrate our ability to reduce energy use locally – with the goal of avoiding, or significantly delaying, construction of that third unit,’” says Jason Walls, Duke Energy’s government and community relations manager in Asheville.
Moving toward that goal, Duke Energy, Buncombe County and the city of Asheville created an Energy Innovation Task Force to develop a long-term energy plan for the region.
A key objective: encourage Duke Energy customers to reduce their electricity usage – especially during peak demand periods (extremely hot or cold days) – through the company’s many existing customer-focused energy efficiency programs.
Those programs include free energy audits for homes, businesses and industrial plants to identify energy-saving opportunities; financial incentives to buy or construct energy-efficient homes and other buildings; and partial rebates for installing advanced, low-energy heating and cooling systems.
Duke Energy also can install a device that cycles a customer’s air conditioner or water heater on and off during peak demand periods, saving money for the customer (with little or no comfort impact) while reducing energy consumption on the electric grid.
The task force in 2017 will draft a detailed report on its initial, two-year energy savings proposal.
Says Walls: “This initiative is a national model for constructive and effective collaboration between a utility and the community it serves.”
In addition to energy efficiency programs, Duke Energy has committed to build at least 15 megawatts of solar energy and 5 megawatts of energy storage in the region.