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Hurricane Florence Aims at 16.7 Million Electricity Customers in Southeastern U.S.

Investor-owned utilities that serve the 16 million electricity customers in the storm's potential path have warned customers

Hurricane Florence is approaching the southeastern coast of the United States, bringing with it sustained winds near 130 mph, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Investor-owned utilities that serve the 16 million electricity customers in the storm's potential path have warned customers of extended power outages and asked for patience ahead of the storm.

Most of the southeastern U.S. and parts of the mid-Atlantic region are bracing for the worst impacts of the storm, expected to make landfall on Sept. 14. Investor-owned utilities that serve states in those areas reported having more than 16.7 million electric retail customers in 2016, roughly 87% of which were residential, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration data. Duke Energy Corp. subsidiaries Duke Energy Progress LLC and Duke Energy Carolinas LLC serve more than 4 million electricity customers across the Carolinas, where the storm is expected to make landfall, and company officials on Sept. 12 predicted widespread outages. Governors in both states have declared states of emergency ahead of the storm.

Virginia has also declared a state of emergency. The state’s largest electricity provider, Dominion Energy Inc. subsidiary Virginia Electric and Power Co., which operates as Dominion Energy Virginia, reported serving 2.5 million customers in 2016 across Virginia and the northeastern corner North Carolina. According to wind speed probability data from the National Hurricane Center, it is likely that most of Virginia, as well as the Carolinas, will see sustained winds over 39 miles per hour for several days once the storm makes landfall.

In addition to impacts to the electric grid infrastructure, more than 111,000 MW of operating plant capacity is in the cross-hairs of the storm, including nearly 21,000 MW of nuclear capacity. Flooding can cause major issues for power plants, and Hurricane Florence could produce 5 to 10 inches of rain in the western portions of the Carolinas, and 3 to 6 inches of rain across Appalachia and the mid-Atlantic, according to data from the National Hurricane Center. Isolated totals could reach 40 inches in some coastal areas.

There are 16 companies with more than 800 MW of generating capacity in the path of Hurricane Florence. Duke owns the most, at 31,836 MW. This includes capacity at six of the 11 nuclear plants in the storm's path, namely Brunswick, Catawba, Shearon Harris, McGuire, Oconee and H.B. Robinson. The other nuclear facilities in the storm's path are the Tennessee Valley Authority's Sequoyah and Watts Bar Nuclear plants in Tennessee; Southern Co.'s Edwin I. Hatch and Alvin W. Vogtle plants in Georgia, and the V.C. Summer plant in South Carolina, owned by SCANA Corp. and the South Carolina Public Service Authority, known as Santee Cooper.

Southern owns the second-largest amount of operating capacity at risk from the hurricane. Of that capacity, roughly 18% is comprised of the two largest power plants in the storm's path: Scherer a 3,392-MW coal-fired facility, and Bowen, a 3,232-MW coal plant. Southern shares ownership of Scherer with Oglethorpe Power Corp., NextEra Energy Inc. and several others.

-S&P Global Market Intelligence

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