In 2021 as in 2019, Duke Energy supported legisla- tion in the General Assembly that maximizes their profits at the expense of our communities and our environment. House Bill 951, “Energy Solutions for North Carolina,” is the product of months- long, closed-door discussions between Duke, a hand-selected group of legislators, and few other stakeholders. The legislation outlines a path for the North Carolina Utilities Commission to achieve the governor’s carbon emission reduction goals, requiring a state carbon plan that is to be reas- sessed every two years. Though we support move- ment on climate action, we and most of our allies hold doubts about the plan because it gives Duke significant involvement.
The bill ultimately passed after long negotiations between Cooper and legislators last fall, despite persistent opposition from clean energy and environmental justice groups. To this day, we are watching how HB 951 and the development of the carbon plan play out.
The bill’s development was secretive, something with which representatives on both sides of the aisle took issue. After the bill passed, the Utilities Commission tasked Duke with developing its own proposed carbon plan. Duke conducted various stakeholder meetings to inform their draft, but these were again limited. They claimed to have incorporated environmental justice in the plan, but held only one stakeholder meeting with EJ groups less than two weeks before releasing their draft. This action shows a lack of concern for the most impacted communities, people of color, and other underserved groups that should have a real say in North Carolina’s energy future.
Duke’s draft carbon plan was released in May 2022. In three of their four possible pathways toward achieving the required carbon reductions, they use HB 951’s flexibility to request more time to hit the targets. However, the Utilities Commission still has the opportunity to overrule Duke and create a plan truly in the public interest.
We do not yet know exactly how the commission will choose to respond to Duke’s proposals or the plans submitted by other groups for consideration. There are still opportunities for the public to weigh in to voice specific concerns around Duke’s plan and North Carolina’s energy future. Though this is not unfolding how Gov. Cooper likely intended when signing HB 951 into law, he has remained committed to the goals set forth in the legislation. At the time of this writing, we remain hopeful that the Utilities Commission will follow through on the task HB 951 handed them, listen to the people, and select a plan for North Carolina that achieves the carbon reduction targets we desperately need.