North Carolina can be a leader in clean energy, growing jobs and cutting harmful emissions in the process, but not without Duke Energy’s commitment to those goals. Right now Duke is trying to have it both ways. On the one hand, they are helping places like Charlotte bring clean energy projects online, but across the state, Duke is also planning a massive buildout of gas power plants while also keeping its dirty coal plants online. That’s the opposite of progress. It could lock in decades of climate pollution that will hurt our economy and our health.
Every two years, Duke Energy is required to complete a full Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) for its two utilities in the Carolinas, and then get it approved by the North Carolina Utility Commission (NCUC). An IRP is essentially a plan for providing energy to the state’s customers in the most cost-effective way.
But here’s the thing. Duke Energy’s IRPs in North Carolina are dependent on outdated fossil fuels, and they undervalue low-cost, low-risk clean energy resources like energy efficiency, demand-side management, renewable energy, and battery storage Duke’s proposed plans would make it impossible to reach North Carolina’s climate goals, and they put the health of its residents at risk. With the NCUC prepared to send Duke back to the drawing board, the company now appears to be trying to use the state legislature to stop that proceeding and get its way.
During Duke Energy’s May earnings call, there was much discussion about possible legislation. After the earnings call, Duke apparently went to House leadership to get a placeholder bill filed so they could back up their claims that such a bill existed. That came with HB951, Study Emerging Energy Generation, an appropriation bill that seemed to skip the traditional legislative process.
Pro-Duke Energy legislators and stakeholders are reconvening to finalize this still-secret bill developed without input from environmental or ratepayer advocate stakeholders, Democratic legislators, or Gov. Cooper’s office, unlike the extensive process used to develop Gov. Cooper’s Clean Energy Plan.
Despite Gov. Cooper’s clear warning that he will veto any energy bill unless it significantly reduces carbon emissions and meets clean energy goals, we remain concerned the ultimate bill will be a sweetheart deal for Duke to bake its inadequate 15-year IRP into law, forestall further coal retirements, and continue building natural gas plants instead of investing in solar, wind, and battery storage. This would potentially put ratepayers on the hook for coal and gas plant operations and retirements after renewables become the cheapest options, and it would delay the action we need to take now to make North Carolina a clean energy leader.