Duke Energy

A must-read explanation of "distributed" power systems

The way of the future:

A distributed system, increasingly powered by renewable sources that are often at the site of the business or home. Efficient sensor-enabled appliances, controlled by communication technologies, would be linked to a grid coordinating a complex network of energy producers and users. In this scenario, the end user is increasingly in control of their own energy supply and demand. As networks of these new energy consumers grow, they will link together in micro-grids that allow autonomy from centralized providers.

I sort of jumped into the middle of the discussion with that quote, so you should go read the whole thing. We've already developed parts of this (new) approach with the proliferation of Solar farms, but many more need to be built, with an eye towards local needs. That includes smaller systems that provide power for 1-3 homes. And yes, that last part about "autonomy" will definitely be opposed by Duke Energy and their cohorts, but their business model is going to change, whether they like it or not. Another *huge* advantage of distributing energy generation is to curtail "lost" power. I don't have the stats in front of me, but even the newest long-distance transmission lines lose (waste) somewhere north of 17% of generated power before it can be used. That's right, one sixth of the toxins and carbon we're pumping into the air return *zero* benefits in power. If left to their own devices, Duke Energy will continue their "macro" approach to energy supply, so this battle is going to be a tough one. But it must be fought.

Duke Energy's bullying tactics could backfire on them

No matter how much self-righteous indignation they sputter:

Duke Energy welcomes the discussion over the future of energy. And we welcome competition on a level playing field for all. Groups like NC WARN and their allies are certainly welcome to their own point of view on these issues, but not their own facts.

Any company in any industry would be against allowing newcomers to avoid rules, while the same newcomers support continued regulation of others. What NC WARN is doing is similar to driving a car on the highway and saying the rules of the road apply only to others.

Uh, no. That's not what they're really trying to achieve. They're trying to push you into the light, to force your hand in showing everybody how viciously you will protect your monopoly. And you're doing exactly what they thought you would. And when those "free market"-lovers in the General Assembly finally pass meaningful legislation to free up the grid, all you'll need to do is look in the mirror to find someone to blame.

Thank you SELC

Read all about it.

Refusing to sit by while the state agrees to abandon enforcement of groundwater pollution laws, today SELC filed a legal challenge asking the Superior Court to overturn approval of a settlement between Duke Energy and the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality over the utility’s coal ash pollution throughout the state. The settlement is the latest example of North Carolina’s state environmental agency routinely obstructing citizen efforts to secure full cleanups at Duke Energy’s leaking coal ash sites.

In the settled action, Duke had appealed a groundwater penalty at a single coal ash storage site but, in the settlement agreement, the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) abandons enforcement of groundwater pollution laws at every one of Duke’s coal ash sites for cases pending in Superior Court – and even for future violations.

This is why the Southern Environmental Law Center is an organization Jane and I support wholeheartedly.

Press release: Blocking the sun

For Immediate Release: Thursday, October 15th
Contact: Rachel Morales, (804) 625-0060, Rachel@EnvironmentNorthCarolina.org

Report: Duke Energy among the nation’s top solar energy opponents

Raleigh, NC- Duke Energy is front and center in a new report connecting the company to a national network of utility interest groups and fossil-fuel industry-funded think tanks providing funding, model legislation, and political support for anti-solar campaigns across the country.

DEQ being raked over the coal (ash) on Duke Energy settlement

And some of it is internal criticism:

But last week, a News & Observer reporter dug through piles of transcripts from depositions given during Duke's appeal and found statements like this from Thomas Reeder, the state's assistant secretary for the environment: "If it was up to me, it would have been about $50 million," he said. "They've nuked this whole drinking water source for the Wilmington area (around Duke's Sutton plant). Haven't done anything about it. Haven't owned up to it. So in my opinion, the penalty should have been a lot more severe than it was."

It would be disingenuous to say Tom Reeder has received "mixed reviews" here at BlueNC. His attitude during the early part of Republican control was often appalling, buying into the GOP meme that DENR had been hostile to business interests and needed stark reform. But he has been there for 17 years and is genuinely concerned about water quality. No doubt he will catch some heat for these observations, but he's right. DEQ's capitulation on these fines (and apparently future fines) will have an adverse effect on NC's water quality, along with the reputation of DEQ itself.

Coal Ash Wednesday: The amazing disappearing fines


$18 million gone, unlike the Dan River coal ash, which is still there:

"This was a pennies-on-the-dollar settlement," Longest says. "And it raises serious concerns about whether [DEQ] is trying to protect the environment of North Carolina or trying to protect Duke from further litigation."

DEQ isn't saying much about the settlement, which also orders Duke to "accelerate" cleanup at four of its most faulty lagoons, in Asheville, Wilmington, Goldsboro and Belews Creek. Through a representative, DEQ Secretary Donald van der Vaart declined an interview request, directing the INDY instead to the agency's press statement.

Oh no, van der Vaart isn't going to answer any pesky questions, but he will take to the Op-Ed pages and pen a self-righteous rebuttal to any bad press he might receive. As far as that "protecting Duke from further litigation," if it looks and swims and quacks like a corporate duck, well. You know the rest. I was going to add something about how corporate ducks are prone to vicious attacks if you don't throw the bread fragments to them quickly enough, but that would be carrying the duck reference a little too far, so I'll leave that alone.

Coal Ash Wednesday: DEQ rolls over for $7 million


They might as well join Duke Energy's legal team:

The company is settling a fine from earlier this year for $7 million. The amount is short of what the state originally wanted, and it looks like Duke could get a lot more out of the agreement in the future. “And under the terms of that agreement, duke energy will pay $7 million and resolve all of the groundwater issues past, present and future at all 14 of our coal plants,” said Sheehan.

“It's one of those situations where if you're not outraged, you're not paying attention,” said Southern Environment Law Center Senior Attorney Frank Holleman.

Let's see, originally it was $25 million for just one plant, and now it's $7 million for the whole shebang. Yep, I'd say "outrageous" is not an overstatement. DEQ is either horrifically inept, or they're simply playing a part in a Kabuki theatre, like we've been speculating about since they first began to insinuate themselves into lawsuits against Duke Energy.

The eminent domain faux-Libertarians don't want to talk about

When for-profit energy companies take your land:

Property owners in Henderson and Polk counties are learning about the limits on their rights to control the property they own and to control what happens to the hillside they view from their back porch.

When electric power lines and pipelines are needed for the public use and benefit, the state of North Carolina grants private companies the right to condemn the property necessary for their projects. So when Duke Energy provides a case that the increasing use of electricity in Western North Carolina justifies the installation of a new power line from South Carolina leading up to Asheville, they are granted the ability to condemn the property along a selected route for the transmission line.

While the issue of government exercising eminent domain to secure land for the general public's transportation and utility needs is complex, and not suited to across-the-board declarations of right or wrong, the hypocrisy of "property rights" advocates on the right is neither complex nor justifiable. If elected officials overreach they can be removed from office, but the general public has no recourse when corporations are granted the power to take property. And when those conquests result in profits, the perpetrators are usually rewarded, sometimes to the tune of millions in salary and stock options. True Libertarians would be horrified by that, but corporate puppets wearing a Libertarian mask? Crickets.

Excerpts from Duke Energy's Quarterly Earnings Call

Rumors of their struggling are greatly exaggerated:

In June, we completed our $1.5 billion accelerated stock repurchase ahead of schedule. Further, last month we announced that the Board of Directors increased the quarterly dividend to $0.825 per share, doubling the annual growth rate to around 4 percent. This increase reflects our confidence in the strength of our core business and our cash flows.

Our balance sheet provides continued support for growth in the dividend. For the past 89 years, the dividend has demonstrated our commitment to delivering attractive total returns to shareholders.

Unless I'm mistaken, that stock repurchase was not financed or leveraged, it was the expenditure of liquid assets. Why is that important? Because with a corporation as large as Duke is, spending those big piles of cash is just as important as bringing them in. And when Duke isn't buying up their own stock to artificially enhance its value, they're buying up generation facilities of other companies, to increase their holdings:

Duke Energy self-reports "no contamination found" in Lumberton

In a related story, Fluffy the dog says, "I don't know who tore up that couch pillow, but I'll keep an eye out."

Tests near the coal ash site at the closed Weatherspoon Power Plant in Lumberton show no hazardous levels of toxic material, Duke Energy officials said Thursday. Duke just competed groundwater testing near the Lumberton plant, according to Duke spokeswoman Zenica Chatman. The tests showed no impact on nearby wells or the Lumber River, she said.

"We're very encouraged by what we're seeing," she said.

She says, while looking at the stock readout showing Duke Energy's stock stabilizing at around $72 per share. As is often the case when PR makes it into the regular news columns, there's more to be learned in the commentary:


Subscribe to RSS - Duke Energy