By - Michael Drost

Duke Energy to move forward on Carolina transmission line despite protests

Energize Weekly, August 19, 2015

Duke Energy is expediting the route selection process for a proposed transmission line in the Western Carolinas region, announcing that it will pick its recommended route three months earlier than originally scheduled in order to alleviate uncertainty and give affected stakeholders more time to prepare.

The 40-mile line, which would connect Campobello, South Carolina to Duke’s Asheville Plant in Asheville, has been met with heavy criticism from landowners and community leaders, who say it will decrease home values and will ruin the area’s equestrian-based tourism industry. Last month, a coalition of stakeholders formed within a week of Duke proposing the line, while one landowner filed a lawsuit seeking more information about Duke’s planned Campobello substation.

In response to the backlash, Duke said it would be issuing a decision on the route by early October, instead of December as originally planned.

“We’ve been listening closely to potentially impacted communities and landowners along the study routes and have heard overwhelmingly from them the need to expedite the review process to reduce the period of uncertainty for selecting the final route,” Robert Sipes, Duke Energy’s Western North Carolina regional general manager.

“We’ve expanded our team, accelerated the schedule and are committing to complete our comprehensive process for route selection by early October. We welcome all input, as this will be a transparent process to all interested parties. We will fully consider all feedback and input as we finalize our route recommendation. While we are expediting our decision, we are not sacrificing thoroughness.”

Duke says the 230-kilovolt line, part of a $1.1 billion modernization project which includes transforming Duke’s Asheville coal plant to natural gas, is designed to help meet growing demand in the Western Carolina region.

“Since 1970, overall energy usage has more than doubled and the peak demand has increased 360 percent in western North Carolina,” said Duke spokesperson Meghan Musgrave. “We are forecasting additional growth of 15 percent over the next decade.

Communities in the area are unlikely to be swayed by the expedited process, as most are opposed to the construction of any transmission lines on their property. Earlier this month, the Polk County Board of Commissioners issued a resolution urging Duke to relocate the line to outside the county’s borders. While the resolution lacks any legal authority, the Commissioners said they were forced to take a stand because constituents were so vocal in their opposition.

The route still needs to be approved by regulators in both North and South Carolina before construction can begin.

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