ROXBORO, N.C. (WTVD) -- Duke Energy wants to expedite plans to build a new hydrogen-capable natural gas power plant in Person County.
The energy company updated its Carolina Resources Plan Wednesday and filed new documents with the North Carolina Utilities Commission. The documents reveal that the company believes it needs to get the new plant up and running earlier than expected due to the ongoing population boom and business growth in North Carolina.
The North Carolina Department of State said the economic boom continues to be impressive. This January alone has seen 14,000 new business applications filed.
Small businesses are driving a lot of that expansion. Last year, North Carolina saw the second most filings ever for small businesses, with more than 171,000 new entities registered. The record for most new small businesses was set in 2021 when more than 178,000 filed.
"The Carolinas continue to experience phenomenal growth and demand for electricity," Duke Energy spokesperson Bill Norton said. "It's far outpacing our forecast from the spring that were the basis for our long-range plan."
Recent energy usage numbers dwarfed Duke Energy's expectations. Because of that, the company had to increase its most recent usage projection by 2,000 megawatts.
"If you look at our plan from just two years ago versus now, we're expecting eight times the level of electricity demand by 2030 than two years ago," Norton said.
Wednesday's updated urgency in getting the new plant up and running is a direct response to that increased energy demand.
"With new nuclear, increase hydrogen natural gas, with more solar, more wind -- it's going to be an all of above diverse mix," Norton said describing how Duke Energy plans to meet the energy needs of people in North Carolina.
In addition to meeting those energy demands, the new hydrogen-capable natural gas power plant will help Duke Energy meet its environmental goal of completely cutting off the use of coal by 2035.
The plant Duke Energy is currently using at the Person County Energy Complex uses coal. It will be phased out and eventually replaced by the new plant.
Duke Energy plans to announce specific construction details and operational timelines during a media event on Thursday.
Still, these plans remain subject to regulatory approval. Duke Energy will hold public meetings in April and an evidentiary hearing in the summer. Then the North Carolina Utilities Commission will decide by December if the new plan can go forward.