Sunday, September 2, 2007

Duke pledges new clean-coal electric plant...

Duke Energy pledges new clean-coal electric plant if bill is enacted for payback

Duke Energy said Thursday it would build a multibillion-dollar clean-coal electric generating plant in Ohio sometime in the next decade if the General Assembly enacts legislation that would allow it to recover the cost.

The utility disclosed the possible investment, its first new "baseload" plant in Ohio in more than 15 years, as part of a long-term supply plan to meet the needs of its 680,000 customers in Southwest Ohio after 2008.

"We believe it is prudent now to start planning additional clean sources of electric supply," said Sandra Meyer, president of Duke Energy Ohio. "While energy efficiency and renewables can provide some of the answer, additional sources of generation will be needed as customer demand grows and older, less-efficient generating units are retired."

The utility's announcement came a day after Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland outlined a plan mandating increased alternative energy sources, reasserting the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio's authority to regulate rates on electric generation, and developing new technologies such as high-tech metering that would give customers better control of their electric bills.

A Duke spokesman said announcement of its long-term supply plan following the governor's speech was coincidental. But the utility, which acquired the former Cinergy Corp. in 2006, has made no secret that it needs more than 1,500 megawatts of additional electric generation to meet customer needs.

Under Ohio's 8-year-old electric deregulation plan that takes full effect in 2008, there is no way for an electric utility to recover the cost of new generating facilities except through public-market financing. But following the Enron debacle, the public markets have taken a dim view of new utility financing, utility experts say.

Duke said if the General Assembly approves legislation allowing it to recover costs from ratepayers, it would build a clean-coal generating facility in Ohio entering service after 2013 capable of producing between 600 and 800 megawatts.

"Legislative action this year is critical to the development of new energy sources," Meyer said.
Duke is developing plans for a similar $2 billion clean-coal plant near Edwardsport, Ind., southwest of Bloomington, to serve its customers in Indiana.

To gauge the long-term supply market, Duke also said it is issuing requests for proposals from Midwest third-party suppliers for up to 1,800 megawatts of electricity from peaking and other intermediate sources, including renewable energy, for 2009 to 2018.

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