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AUTHOR:Robert Walton @TeamWetDog
PUBLISHED Nov. 6, 2017

Dive Brief:

Duke Energy announced last week that it will invest $3 billion over in South Carolina over the next decade, aiming to strengthen the distribution grid and boost to the state’s economy.
The plan includes $1.3 billion to bury power lines, or convert overhead lines to underground, $700 million for hardening and resilience of its distribution system, and $500 million for transmission improvements.
According to Duke, benefits to the state stretch beyond reliable power, and include more than $116 million in new tax revenue and a total economic output of more than $5 billion over the next decade.

Duke Energy has announced a 10-year plan to invest in South Carolina’s electric grid, aiming to harden its system while also having a solid economic impact on the state.

“Investing in smarter, efficient energy infrastructure is more than just good business – it’s an investment in our state that helps to attract jobs and industry and makes our economy and our communities stronger, Kodwo Ghartey-Tagoe, Duke Energy’s South Carolina president, said in a statement.

The largest part of Duke’s plan includes burying thousands of miles of hard-to-access overhead lines underground “Our goal is to underground 20 percent of the least reliable vegetated overhead lines on the grid,” the company explained

Distribution system improvements will help prevent outages, especially during storms, and provides faster restoration times. Duke will retrofit 49,000 transformers with new technology to prevent animal interference and lightning strikes, and will replacing 2,300 miles of “deteriorating cable” that is more susceptible to failure.

The work will also include installing physical and cybersecurity enhancements that will “protect against hackers and everyday occurrences like animal intrusions and vandalism.” Duke will also spend almost $400 million on developing a self-optimization grid that will increase connectivity, capacity and control.

The utility says its 10-year modernization plan will result in almost 3,300 jobs supported per year, almost $315 million in new salaries and wages annually during the peak years of construction, and more than $116 million in new tax revenue for the state.

Duke’s efforts underline a broader effort by utilities across the nation to harden the grid against devastating storms. Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico are three such examples of states and U.S. territories exploring ways to boost resilience in the wake of devastating hurricanes.

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