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Duke Mulls Adding New Generation at North Carolina Sites

Duke Power last Wednesday disclosed that it has filed preliminary information with the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC) outlining possible plans to add two new 800 MW generating units at its existing Cliffside Steam Station in Rutherford and Cleveland Counties and a 600 MW natural gas and oil-fueled, combined cycle unit at the company's Buck Steam Station in Rowan County.

Duke Power said that the filings in support of an application for a certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN) with the NCUC are part of Duke Power's overall strategy to plan for the future.

The company said that the Cliffside and Buck steam stations are excellent sites for new power units because much of the critical infrastructure is already in place, which keeps construction and operating costs low and minimizes environmental impacts.

The company is also considering whether to pursue the option to build a new nuclear power plant and, separately, is seeking bids from the wholesale power market for up to 1,500 MW beginning in 2009. Duke Power recently issued a request for proposals to potentially supply the company with up to 350 MW of peaking and intermediate load electricity beginning in 2007 and up to 1,500 MW of peaking and intermediate capacity beginning in 2009.

A potential Cliffside Steam Station modernization and expansion would include an 800 MW, coal-fueled unit planned for as early as 2010. A second 800 MW unit would be possible as well based on customer growth and the schedule for constructing a new nuclear power plant.

A possible Buck Steam Station modernization and expansion would include a 600 MW natural gas and oil-fueled, combined-cycle unit. The outcome of the RFP to wholesale power suppliers will be important in determining if the company builds a combined- cycle plant at Buck Steam Station or at a site in South Carolina.

"Our customers' demand for energy is growing," said Ellen Ruff, group vice president of planning and external relations for Duke Power. "The preliminary plans for Cliffside and Buck, along with efforts to secure the option to license a new nuclear plant, build on Duke Power's tradition of operating a highly efficient and diverse fleet of power plants."

She said that in addition to evaluating new nuclear, purchased power and efficient, state-of-the-art coal and natural gas and oil plants, "we will be evaluating additional conservation measures and renewable energy options as we prepare for the future. Ensuring the environment is protected is at the forefront of our minds."

Duke Power said it will ensure continued compliance with North Carolina's stringent "clean smokestacks" legislation by retiring older and less efficient power plant units or installing additional emission control equipment. Cliffside's new coal units would be very efficient and feature extensive emissions controls, resulting in reduced emissions per megawatt of power produced from Duke Power's portfolio of power plants, the company noted.

The filings are part of Duke Power's long-term generation planning process and are independent and unaffected by Duke Energy's recently announced plans to merge with Cinergy (see related story).

Duke Power is also considering alternate sites in South Carolina for new power units, and will be filing a CPCN application with the Public Service Commission of South Carolina in the coming months.

Planning for new power plants must begin well in advance of increased power demand, Duke Power pointed out. It takes approximately four years to permit and construct an intermediate load natural gas and oil-fueled, combined-cycle plant. Base load coal and nuclear plants take about six and nine years to permit and construct respectively.

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