Duke, environmentalists agree on conservation plan

Jun 12 - McClatchy-Tribune Regional News - Bruce Henderson The Charlotte
> Observer, N.C.
> Duke Energy, environmental groups and a state agency that
> represents consumers reached agreement today on changes to Duke's
> save-a-watt energy efficiency program.
> For nearly two years, environmentalists and the N.C. Utilities
> Commission's Public Staff, which represents consumer interests, had
> argued that the program would cost consumers too much while saving too
> little energy.
> Duke would profit from the conservation program, originally
> proposing to recover up to 90 percent of the costs avoided by not
> building new power plants. More recently, Duke has agreed to reduce
> its potential profits.
> Under an agreement to be filed with the commission today, the
> utility agreed to more aggressive energy savings goals and caps on its
> profits, said the Southern Environmental Law Center, one of the groups
> that have negotiated with Duke.
> The agreement sets a goal of reducing energy demand by almost 2
> percent in four years, SELC said, compared to 1.2 percent under Duke's
> original proposal. Duke could shave 8 percent within 10 years, it
> said.
> If the goals are met, the group said, total energy savings by
> 2020 could top the annual output of an 800-megawatt boiler like the
> one Duke is building at its Cliffside plant.
> Duke agreed to tie its earnings from the program to its
> performance in reaching conservation goals, said SELC's Gudrun
> Thompson. Earnings would be capped at 5 percent if Duke achieves less
> than 60 percent of its target, but
> 15 percent if it achieves 90 percent or better of the goal.
> "We think the performance is going to be much better and will
> have a higher rate of participation," added Michael Regan of the
> Environmental Defense Fund, another of the negotiators.
> Duke spokesman Tim Pettit confirmed the agreement.
> "While we're glad to be able to work with these groups on the
> program and reach a settlement, it's ultimately up to the Utilities
> Commission to approve," he said.
> The N.C. Utilities Commission, in February, approved the
> energy-efficiency measures Duke proposed under the save-a-watt
> program, and those went into effect June 1. But the commission
> demanded more information on what it called "inadequate and
> inappropriate" accounting procedures.
> Duke had maintained that the initial save-a-watt proposal could
> save
> 1,372 megawatts in the Carolinas over the next four years, at a cost
> to participating customers of about $1 a month. Critics had said the
> program's true energy savings could be as little as 120 megawatts.
> A similar agreement will be filed in South Carolina this summer,
> the groups said. South Carolina's Public Service Commission rejected
> the program in February, faulting its complexity and the possibility
> of "unreasonably high profit" for Duke. But the commission urged Duke
> to come back with a revised plan.