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NC regulators grant NTE conditional approval for 500-MW gas plant

NTE Energy has been given a conditional go-ahead by North Carolina state regulators to move forward with a 500-MW natural gas-fired energy project planned for Rockingham County.

The North Carolina Utilities Commission granted subsidiary NTE Carolinas II LLC a certificate of public convenience and necessity, or CPCN, with some stipulations, for its Reidsville Energy Center and accompanying transmission facilities, the company said in a March 27 news release.

The CPCN was the final step needed before construction can move forward on the plant, which will supply "clean and efficient" electricity to the region, NTE said.

The commission said NTE "made a sufficient showing of need" for the proposed project and that it will likely provide electric reliability benefits to the region.

Duke Energy Carolinas LLC and Duke Energy Progress LLC, both subsidiaries of Duke Energy Corp., "each show a need for approximately 5,000 MW of additional generating capacity due to load growth and planned retirements over the next 15 years," the regulators said in their order granting permission for the project.

Additionally, the commission found that NTE identified specific wholesale customers in the Carolinas interested in purchasing output from the Reidsville Energy Center, "based on its assessments and its investigation of market activity by regional load-serving entities."

However, the CPCN also imposed conditions requiring additional regulatory permits and approvals for the project's construction due to concerns raised by advocacy group NC WARN and some members of the public, the commission noted. The company and its successors were also denied any future attempts to exercise eminent domain under North Carolina law "in relation to the generating facility authorized by this certificate," according to the order.

NTE said it is obtaining all necessary permits and approvals, and that long term power purchase agreements are being negotiated with several entities in the Carolinas. The company is also in the process of studying an interconnection with Duke Energy Carolinas' transmission system.

Construction is expected to begin in the fourth quarter of 2017, and the plant should be commercially operational in 2021, according to NTE.

The issuance of the Reidsville CPCN is a "major milestone," NTE CEO Seth Shortlidge said in a statement, adding that the project is essential and will supply reliable and affordable wholesale power to the region.

NTE is also in the process of building another natural gas-fired power plant in Cleveland County, N.C. According to S&P Global Market Intelligence data, the 475-MW Kings Mountain Energy project is currently under construction with an estimated completion date of October 2018.

In April 2016, NTE announced plans to invest about $2 billion to develop 2,000 MW of natural gas capacity. In August 2016, the company filed its application for the Reidsville Energy Center.