The environmental group Greenpeace flew a 135-foot airship past the coal-fired Marshall Steam Station on Lake Norman Sunday night, carrying signs urging Duke Energy to adopt cleaner energy practices.
Banners on the blimp read: “Duke: Don’t Raise Rates for Dirty Energy” and “Cleaner is Cheaper.” It was the latest in a series of flights by the airship around North Carolina, and the first to pass by one of Duke’s coal-fired plants. The airship also flew Monday near a Duke plant in Asheville.
Greenpeace says Duke is getting ready to build more coal-fired electrical generating plants, like the Marshall plant north of Mooresville. But the organization instead wants the utility to replace coal plants with cleaner types of energy generation.
“The Marshall Steam Station is responsible for over one hundred deaths, heart attacks, and asthma attacks yearly in addition to damaging water and air quality throughout the region. Continuing to operate this plant is massively expensive for communities throughout North Carolina,” Robert Gardner of Greenpeace said in a press release Monday.
Greenpeace last week released a report claiming that Duke could save rate payers $108 billion over 20 years by investing in renewable energy. That report, “Charting the Correction Course: A Clean Energy Pathway for Duke Energy,” explores alternative energy options for Duke, which recently merged with Progress Energy.
“It’s a win, win” said Mike Johnson, report author and senior analyst for Greenpeace. “Duke and their ratepayers save money while pollution is significantly reduced. This means better air quality and ultimately better health. By implementing a clean energy pathway, Duke has a chance to be the leader that Jim Rogers claims to be.”
The airship previous flew over Raleigh, Wilmington and Carrboro. The tour is expected to continue this week.
Duke says it is already spending money to improve the environmental performance of its plants. On Friday, the company’s newly acquired Progress Energy subsidiary announced plans to close two coal-fired plants – one each in North and South Carolna – on Oct. 1.
Duke Energy spokeswoman Erin Culbert said Monday the utility – and recently acquired Progress Energy – are in the midst of a “pretty aggressive fleet modernization,” which includes retiring older coal plants and improving environmental controls on existing ones. Those changes should help reduce emisions, she said. She also provided a statement outlining Duke’s other efforts:
- We are in the midst of retiring about 5,400 megawatts of older coal generation by 2015, with more than 3,260 megawatts of that in the Carolinas.
- Duke Energy has invested $6 billion in recent years to upgrade our plants to meet current environmental regulations and expects to spend an additional $4.5 to $5 billion in the next decade to comply with upcoming regulations. These investments have significantly reduced the coal fleet’s sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and mercury emissions.
- These large capital projects necessary for a cleaner, more efficient generating fleet that meets customer demand with less fuel are precisely what recent rate increases fund. The irony is that the same organizations that urged us to improve the environmental performance of our plants are now protesting the investment necessary to do so.
- Duke Energy continues making significant investment in renewables, including $2.5 billion spent on our commercial wind projects since 2007. Even if Duke Energy were pursuing strictly wind or solar projects to meet customer demand, rate increases would still be necessary to fund the vast infrastructure needed to provide that amount of electricity.
- We continue to believe a diverse mix of generation is key to providing electricity to customers affordably, reliably and in increasingly clean ways.
The utility also provided a lengthy statement last week to Raleigh TV station WNCN, NBC-17, about flights over the Triangle, saying: “It’s ironic that the same group that urged Duke Energy to improve the environmental performance of its power plants is now protesting against the company for spending money to do exactly that. Duke Energy remains focused on providing affordable, reliable and increasingly clean energy to its customers.”
Greenpeace’s full report, http://quitcoal.org/Duke-Solutions-Pathway
Duke Energy’s 2011-12 Sustainability Report, with information on steps the utility is taking to adopted “advanced energy technologies” and reduce its environmental footprint.
July 25, 2012, NBC17.com, Raleigh, “Airship sends message to Duke Energy above Raleigh,” including an extended statement from Duke Energy about the Greenpeace campaign.