Duke’s Fuzzy “Plan”

Duke Energy’s new Carbon Plan is more like a fuzzy menu of options with no surety of a fast path to carbon neutrality.

As required by the state Utilities Commission under last year’s House Bill 951, Duke submitted its proposed Carbon Plan to the commission last Monday. Many environmental and clean energy analysts are criticizing the plan for relying too much on fossil fuels and nuclear power, and for failing to guarantee progress toward genuine carbon neutrality in a timely manner.

Rather than one path to going carbon-free, Duke submitted four options. All of them rely on experimental and costly small modular nuclear units, over 3 gigawatts of new natural gas plants, and no guarantee of long-term offshore wind energy buildout.

All that new gas means more methane, a greenhouse gas less prevalent in our atmosphere than carbon dioxide but far more damaging to our climate. Duke’s plan addresses carbon emissions per the requirements of H951, but completely ignores methane, to the detriment of our planet and our people.

“I was surprised and dismayed to see that each of the new portfolios had a lot of new gas,” said Gudrun Thompson, a senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, “particularly since we need to be phasing out reliance on fossil fuels.” 

H951 allows the commission to let Duke delay meeting its 70% clean energy goal beyond the law’s 2030 target date if the commission deems it necessary to include more offshore wind or nuclear plants in Duke’s portfolio. Duke took the legislature up on this opportunity, proposing 2032 or 2034 as the 70% reduction deadline in three of its four paths. Despite this being allowed by law, advocates are criticizing Duke for the unnecessary delay. “Duke Energy can achieve the carbon reduction requirements by 2030 by retiring its remaining coal fleet and rapidly deploying energy efficiency and demand response programs, wind, solar and battery storage,” the Southern Environmental Law Center, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, and other groups said in a joint statement ahead of Monday’s filing.

These groups are expected to file an alternative plan with supporting expert analysis by July 15. There will be formal public hearings on the plan in July and August. The utilities commission must approve a final plan by the end of 2022.

With the Natural Resources Defense Council, our Foundation is running a digital ad campaign right now to hold Duke accountable to their ratepayers in creating this plan. They must hear from stakeholders, particularly communities of color who are most impacted by their coal and natural gas operations. Check out DirtyDukeEnergy.com for more information.

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