Raleigh, N.C. — Natural gas pipeline expansions may be in the works for North Carolina in the next few years as leaders weigh long-term energy plans, officials said at the North Carolina Energy Policy Council meeting Wednesday morning.
Duke Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas plan to request a new interstate natural gas pipeline that will push gas southward into North Carolina from shale deposits in the Northeast, said Jeff Davis, director of the North Carolina Utilities Commission Public Staff’s natural gas division.
The project, set to be finished in the second half of 2018, would avoid the severe weather issues that often plague pipelines bringing gas from the Gulf of Mexico.
A pipeline expansion project along the Virginia-North Carolina border is already underway and set to be finished in September 2015, Davis said.
The future of the Duke-Piedmont pipeline and some other expansion projects is still uncertain, but Davis remains optimistic.
“We anticipate these will go forward,” he said.
James McLawhorn, director of the electric division of the Public Staff, which represents consumers in utility rate cases, emphasized that the state’s shift in the last decade away from coal and toward natural gas is projected to continue.
Natural gas remains relatively cheap as coal costs creep upward, McLawhorn said.
But some members urged caution about relying on natural gas as an energy source, hearkening back to a 1970s shortage.
“For long-range view for North Carolina, we’d like to see the option to have a fuel choice,” said council member Carl Wilkins. “I want to make sure that we look at our options ... Don’t be lulled into this euphoria of low-cost natural gas that’s cheap and abundant.”
Paul Myers, senior vice president of the Front End Business Group for North America at AREVA, an international nuclear energy firm, said the state’s reliance on nuclear energy has resulted in competitive power rates.
Nuclear energy companies are bringing economic benefits as they move to North Carolina, with a small modular reactor company announcing its move to Charlotte in the last week, Myers said.
Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, chairman of the council, urged members to prepare policy recommendations for the General Assembly’s long session in January.