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NC farmers question Duke Energy's decision to go elsewhere for swine waste

Posted December 9, 2015
Updated December 10, 2015

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— For years, hog waste has been a major environmental concern in North Carolina. Now that farmers are starting to convert that waste into energy, state regulators are looking at why Duke Energy is going out of state to buy the bio-gas.

A 2007 state law requires utilities to obtain a certain amount of the energy they provide from renewable sources, and tax credits are provided for the suppliers of solar, wind and converted animal waste energy. The estimated 8.7 million hogs in North Carolina produce plenty of waste, and farmers want to know why their pigs aren't being used more for that power.

Six farms in the state capture methane produced by hog waste lagoons to produce electricity, but Duke officials say that doesn't come close to meeting their renewable energy requirement. So, the utility wants to sign deals to get its methane from animal waste in Missouri and Oklahoma.

"We would prefer that Duke take advantage of North Carolina resources," said Angie Maier, spokeswoman for the North Carolina Pork Council. "We don't think the intent of the General Assembly in 2007 was for farmers in Missouri to reap the benefits or North Carolina's renewable energy law."

The dispute went before the North Carolina Utilities Commission last month. Duke's attorneys argued the company has every right to contract out of state.

"Duke's proposal to fire swine-waste-directed bio-gas from the Midwest is consistent with the commission's prior decisions. It is consistent with the plain language of the law," said Kendrick Fentress, Duke's associate general counsel.

Duke spokesman Randy Wheeless added that the infrastructure to convert hog waste into methane is better in the Midwest.

"It's more cost effective," Wheeless said, adding that the waste energy "is producing power here in North Carolina."

Maier acknowledged that North Carolina lags in waste-to-energy projects because the upfront cost can run into millions of dollars, which is prohibitive for farmers without the Midwest's deep-pocketed investors.

Duke officials said they expect the out-of-state deals will spur more waste conversion investment in North Carolina, but farmers worry that the energy credits will be gone by then.

"We fear that these out-of-state deals will not only limit opportunities for North Carolina farmers, but it could really dampen the progress that we've seen so far," Maier said.

The Utilities Commission is expected to rule on the waste-to-energy dispute in the coming weeks.

10 Comments

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  • Sam Adams Dec 10, 2015
    user avatar

    Sounds like something Duke Energy would do. Really wish we could be allowed to go off the grid here in Raleigh. As I would love to kick Duke Energy to the curb.

  • Chad Burnham Dec 10, 2015
    user avatar

    Duke Energy, always looking out for North Carolina's best interests.

  • Marcy Lyn Dec 10, 2015
    user avatar

    Just Hog-Wash, they want it cheaper, that's all..

  • John McCray Dec 10, 2015
    user avatar

    View quoted thread


    Thanks for your hard work and stewardship! Sounds like Duke needs to step up and help work to achieve new goals.

  • Tom Butler Dec 10, 2015
    user avatar

    I am a NC contract pork producer. I produce more than 12 million standard cubic feet of methane from hog waste each year at my small farm. Why does Duke Energy want to pipe in bio gas from Missouri when they have 15 billion or more standard cubic feet of methane being produced here in our state in our 4,400 swine waste storage structures? We are making electricity from our hog waste at Butler Farms in Harnett County, NC and selling it back to the local cooperative grid. (South River Electric Membership Cooperative) Our system is flawed and needs improvements, but we, as well as other investors, have very little incentive to invest any more money when Duke Energy has been saying since 2008 that this would not work here in NC. It will!

  • John McCray Dec 10, 2015
    user avatar

    Same with the farmers. Entering into partnerships could be beneficial to both companies.

  • John McCray Dec 10, 2015
    user avatar

    If Duke were to invest in the local infrastructure, then the cost effectiveness of local resources could be greater than those from the midwest.

  • Sue Sloan Dec 10, 2015
    user avatar

    This has to be a joke--NC is drowning in hog waste

  • Ryan Walsh Dec 10, 2015
    user avatar

    Sounds like a bunch of krap to me.

  • Rosco Coltrane Dec 9, 2015
    user avatar

    Duke Energy, not caring about the state of NC, is not a new thing.