Daily CSR
Daily CSR

Daily CSR
Daily news about corporate social responsibility, ethics and sustainability

Natural Gas Generation and Community Impact: Duke Energy's Expansion in North and South Carolina


In Derrick Smith's early years, his uncle's role as a technician, maintaining power plants across North Carolina for Carolina Power & Light, now part of Duke Energy, left a lasting impression. Understanding the significance of powering millions of homes, even as a child, inspired Smith. This inspiration led him to pursue a career as a chemistry technician at Duke Energy's Roxboro (Hyco) Plant, situated just north of his hometown in Person County, North Carolina.
Smith reflects on the importance of providing power to his community and beyond, finding fulfillment in contributing to this essential service every day. Jack Long Jr., a mechanic at Duke Energy's Mayo Plant in Person County, shares this sentiment, emphasizing the responsibility they hold in keeping the lights on for their neighbors and fellow citizens. For Long, the proximity of his workplace, just ten miles from home, and the quality employment it offers, are additional sources of satisfaction.
Looking ahead, both Smith and Long recognize that the methods of power generation are evolving. While Roxboro and Mayo Plants have relied on coal for decades, they are now approaching the end of their operational lifespan. In response, Duke Energy plans to transition to cleaner energy sources such as renewables, batteries, advanced nuclear, and natural gas, aiming for net-zero carbon emissions.
To support the local economy and preserve jobs, Duke Energy proposes the construction of new hydrogen-capable natural gas units at the Roxboro site, creating the Person County Energy Complex. This investment not only ensures the region's energy needs are met but also prioritizes the local workforce, including individuals like Smith who carry on a tradition of powering their community through generations.
Smith acknowledges the significance of Duke Energy's presence in Person County, recognizing its role as a major employer and contributor to the local economy. With the company responsible for a significant portion of the county's tax base, its economic impact is substantial, providing stability and growth opportunities for families like Smith's.
In essence, Smith, Long, and their colleagues at Duke Energy embody a commitment to their community, ensuring its energy needs are met while embracing innovation for a sustainable future.
“When you look at the numbers, it's very easy to see the magnitude of Duke Energy’s impact,” said Person County Commissioner Gordon Powell.
“I certainly want to see Person County be a focal point of new technology and advances being made in power generation. We would love to have Person County be an energy hub for North Carolina.”

Introducing new natural gas generation in North Carolina would not only meet the increasing electricity demands of both North and South Carolina but also accommodate the rapid growth experienced in both regions. This surge in energy needs is fueled by population expansion, the rising popularity of electric vehicles, and substantial investments from manufacturing and technology firms. While Duke Energy's strategy prioritizes renewables and energy storage, advanced nuclear and emerging technologies are not yet viable options. Therefore, natural gas stands out as a reliable interim solution to sustain growth while phasing out coal-fired plants.
Jack Long acknowledges the historical significance of coal but recognizes the industry's evolving landscape. The logistical challenges and increasing costs associated with coal underscore the necessity of transitioning to alternative energy sources like natural gas. Unlike solar and wind power, which are weather-dependent, natural gas offers consistent availability, emitting fewer pollutants than coal and proving more cost-effective than renewables alone. Moreover, future upgrades will enable these new units to operate on carbon-free hydrogen.
For Derrick Smith, the Roxboro plant represents not only a vital energy hub for the state but also a boon to the local economy. As the plant modernizes, it attracts additional resources and personnel, benefiting nearby businesses and communities. Duke Energy's commitment extends beyond providing electricity, with substantial investments in local charitable causes and community development initiatives. Beth Townsend emphasizes the company's dedication to giving back, fostering a supportive environment for employees and residents alike.
Pending regulatory approval, the new units in Person County are slated for operation in 2028 and 2030. Additionally, Duke Energy plans to expand its hydrogen-capable natural gas units to other sites, including Catawba County, North Carolina, and South Carolina. While power plants have long been integral to Person County's identity, the prospect of modernization brings excitement and opportunities for the current workforce to embrace new challenges and technologies.
“In new challenges, there is going to be great opportunity. We’ve already got a lot of skilled labor at this site. They can easily jump into operations at a new site on day one and not miss a beat,” said Smith. “So, I think our future is very bright.”