Duke Energy CEO responds to climate scientist Jim Hansen
Dear Dr. Hansen:
I am happy to meet with you as you suggest in your letter dated March 25, and will work with my staff to find a time that is mutually convenient to discuss climate change. I am in New York City on a regular basis and also open to scheduling a special trip to meet with you. I look forward to spending some time together to discuss climate change and explore ways we can work together on this critical issue.
I enjoyed attending your presentation on climate change at Queens University last fall. I have admired your work and leadership on climate change over the past several decades. Your contributions to this issue have been extraordinary.
I was pleased to read in your letter that you support coal projects that can capture and store carbon dioxide underground. As you know, this technology is not yet commercially available for large coal plants, and the federal EPA has not yet prepared the permits for this technology for large-scale coal plant demonstration sites.
I was surprised to see that you do not want us to proceed with our Edwardsport IGCC plant in Indiana. This plant will be one of the largest IGCC plants in the world and has received $460 million in local, state, and federal clean coal and economic development incentives. The project is located in an area with excellent geology to demonstrate carbon sequestration. It is one of the best — if not the best — site in the nation to advance and commercialize this technology. We intend to work with the federal government and other partners to offer the site to demonstrate carbon capture and sequestration as soon as it is technically feasible.
I was also concerned that you apparently continue to be against our Cliffside project. Since your visit to Queens University, we have worked extensively with the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources on our air permit, which we received last January.
The following is from a column by Keith Overcash, Director of the North Carolina Division of Air Quality, that was published in the Winston-Salem Journal 14 Feb. 2008. Keith provides an overview of the permit and the innovative approach used to make the Cliffside project carbon-neutral by requiring the retirement of 1,000 megawatts of older unit
The new permit requires Duke to shut down four older, less efficient boilers that lack modern pollution controls before operating the new boiler. Duke must install the “best available” or state-of-the art pollution controls on the new boiler (Unit 6) as well as additional controls on an existing boiler (Unit 5) that will continue to operate. Actual emissions at Cliffside should decline by 26,000 tons per year for sulfur dioxide (an 80 percent reduction), 3,500 tons per year for nitrogen oxides (50 percent reduction) and 79 pounds per year for mercury (50 percent reduction) after the new unit goes into operation.
Duke also agreed to mitigate or offset carbon-dioxide emissions from the new Cliffside unit, even though no state or federal regulations currently require controls of such greenhouse-gas emissions. This agreement, which is enforceable through the plant’s air-quality permit, is groundbreaking. I am not aware of any other power plant in the United States that is required by its permit to offset its carbon dioxide emissions.
The mitigation of Cliffside’s carbon-dioxide emissions will begin with the closure of the four older units at Cliffside. Between 2015 and 2018, Duke also must shut down an additional 800 megawatts of coal-fired generating units at other North Carolina plants that lack modern pollution controls. These closures will offset about two-thirds of the carbon-dioxide emissions expected from the new Cliffside unit. Duke has further committed to offset the remaining one-third through other measures — such as energy conservation and renewable sources — and those reductions will be enforceable through its permit.
The new electric-generating capacity at Cliffside will be among the most efficient in the nation. That is, the new unit will be able to generate much more electricity per unit of coal burned than the older units it is replacing. If we had denied the new Cliffside permit, Duke would have been forced to generate more electricity from older, less efficient units that lack modern pollution controls in order to supply increasing demands for power. Thus, a permit denial could have led to greater emissions of air pollution.
The N.C. Utilities Commission, in approving the certificate of need for the new Cliffside unit, determined that North Carolina has increasing needs for electric power generation. The new Cliffside unit will help supply those power needs while reducing air pollution.
I hope you will agree to take a second look at our Cliffside project and acknowledge its innovative approach in reducing all emissions categories — including carbon dioxide. This project will receive $125 million in federal clean coal tax incentives, based on the efficiency of the unit and its emission reduction systems.
I have enclosed our just-released 2007 summary annual report (PDF), which we devoted to this pressing issue. It is entitled, “Building Bridges to a Low-Carbon Future,” and it provides further details on how our Duke Energy team is working to address climate change.
Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to continuing this discussion in New York shortly.