Last week, the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC) told Duke Energy it wants faster action to replace coal-fired power plants with clean energy generation.
NCUC accepted Duke’s latest annual update of its 15-year Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) as “adequate” — but with a catch. The commission ordered Duke to explain in next year’s plan why it should keep its existing coal plants operating, and how it will meet North Carolina’s targeted greenhouse gas emissions reductions under Gov. Roy Cooper’s new clean energy plan. Over the next decade, that plan calls for a reduction of electric generation greenhouse gas emissions by 60% to 70% from 2005 levels. Attorney General Josh Stein has also called on Duke to more aggressively transition to clean energy.
NCUC’s ruling represented half-a-loaf of progress for clean energy advocates who called Duke’s plans inadequate on those fronts. While not requiring a rewrite of the plan this year, the NCUC strongly signaled that it will require submission of a stronger action plan in 2020.
Speaking for the Sierra Club’s “Beyond Coal” campaign, Dave Rogers said, “We’re reasonably confident a significant number of the coal plants in North Carolina are uneconomic, meaning that Duke’s customers are paying more for energy from those coal plants than they would if Duke just retired those coal plants and replaced them with clean sources like solar power.”
Analysts noted this year’s IRP update dropped plans for any new nuclear power plants. Duke had been calling for such plants for decades, but over the past year officially cancelled long-standing plans for two new nuclear plants (one in South Carolina and one in Florida). Thus, the plan already met one aim of many environmental advocates.
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