Confronted with burgeoning demand, Progress Energy Carolinas (Progress) has set a goal of reducing demand by 2,000 MW through demand-side management efforts and energy efficiency programs. The announcement comes less than a month after Duke Energy (Duke) filed a request with the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC) to compensate the company for investments in energy efficiency and new technologies to meet its own growing demand.
Progress has not yet proposed a similar compensation plan to the NCUC. Its plan, however, seeks to double the approximately 1,000 MW being saved with programs currently in effect. With these savings, Progress commits to postpone any plans for new coal plants, and delay consideration of a new nuclear reactor for two years while it evaluates the effectiveness of its stepped-up conservation efforts. These efforts include the conversion of Progress' own buildings, plants and distribution and transmission systems to new, more efficient technologies, partnering with commercial, industrial and government consumers, including the military "” a significant Progress customer "” to help these consumers reduce their demand, and offering new energy efficiency programs to residential customers, including installation of latest-generation programmable thermostats, and increased residential HVAC maintenance.
The combination of quickly increasing demand and regulatory uncertainty "• as evidenced by North Carolina's strict state emissions law and the NCUC's recent rejection of one of two coal plants proposed by Duke Energy, as well as questions surrounding incentives for nuclear and clean-coal development "• has produced an atmosphere ripe for strategies like Progress' that combine conservation initiatives with a wait-and-see approach to new construction. While not entirely abandoning plans for eventual construction of new plants and transmission infrastructure, an immediate focus on conservation and efficiency could buy both companies valuable time until construction becomes absolutely necessary.