Duke Energy plans to spend an extra $13 billion over the next decade to modernize the power lines and systems that distribute electricity in North Carolina. The upgrades include burying lines, adding technology to reduce outages, and giving customers more energy efficiency tools.
Duke has a web of about 190,000 miles of power lines in Carolinas, and spends a billion dollars a year to maintain and improve them. This new program adds to that, says the utility's North Carolina president, David Fountain.
"Really what this program does is accelerate the rate of investment and improvement in the grid, in order to improve reliability and provide protection against physical and cyberattacks, as well as harden the grid against storms," Fountain says.
Storms like Hurricane Matthew last fall, which could wind up costing Duke $150 million for repairs. The 10-year program will put some lines underground in areas prone to storm damage, and add technology to re-route power when needed. That would reduce the number and length of outages.
Fountain says, the grid also needs an upgrade to handle an anticipated two million new residents in North Carolina over the next 10 years. And he says new smart metering tools will help customers better track energy use and lower their own bills.
Meanwhile, some work will allow more growth in solar energy. "We're starting to see some system impacts from this intermittent resource on our grid. And we want to improve the grid to allow for additional penetration of solar energy throughout the state in the decade to come," he says.
Duke says customers will pay for all the upgrades through future rate increases.