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Duke Energy (DUK) to Clear Ponds of Coal Ash Post Lawsuit


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In response to a federal lawsuit and a statewide legislation, Duke Energy Corporation (DUK - Analyst Report) has announced plans to remove nearly 5 million tons of coal ash from three basins at the Buck Steam station in North Carolina.


In 2014, the Southern Environmental Law Centre filed a lawsuit against Duke Energy citing the toxic impact of ash produced from coal-fired power generating facilities. Coal ash contains a high percentage of toxic metal compounds, which gradually seeps into groundwater and contaminates it.

Duke Energy is also working to comply with 2015 General Assembly legislation, which requires coal-based companies to install at least three recycling facilities for processing coal ash, each with a minimum annual capacity of processing 300,000 tons of coal ash. Duke Energy is presently assessing the locations for the second and the third recycling units.

Details of the Plan

Duke Energy is making substantial investment in technology at the Buck Steam station to process coal ash into concrete for ultimately manufacturing cement. Ash generated at the Buck facility contains a very high proportion of carbon, which makes it unsuitable for use in manufacturing cement. Thus, the company has to install the necessary technology for making the by-product usable in cement manufacturing.

Note that this plan has two-fold benefits — it is both environment-friendly and will generate substantial income thanks to the recycling facility’s proximity to several major cement markets.

Duke’s Focus on Eco-Friendly Measures

Duke Energy’s efforts to expand its renewable asset base in light of the increasingly stringent environmental regulations have been commendable. In Apr 2016, the company raised its 2020 renewable energy goal by 33% on the back of continued growth in renewable energy. The company expects to own or acquire 8,000 megawatts (MW) of wind, solar and biomass capacity by 2020, marking a substantial increase over the 2013 target of 6,000 MW. The company is also committed to the construction and expansion of the scale of its solar and wind projects across the U.S.

Among the utilities that are making significant investment in renewable energy, NextEra Energy, Inc. (NEE - Analyst Report) , NRG Energy, Inc. (NRG - Analyst Report) and Xcel Energy Inc.'s (XEL - Analyst Report) have been noteworthy.

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