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Duke Energy developing its second carbon plan to implement energy transition

Solar panels sit at the solar farm on White Cross Road in Chapel Hill on Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022.

Solar panels sit at the solar farm on White Cross Road in Chapel Hill on Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022.

Duke Energy is developing a second carbon plan only two months after the release of the first, according to Duke Energy spokesperson Bill Norton.

The company's original plan — the Carolinas Carbon Plan — detailed Duke Energy's planned methods for implementing North Carolina’s energy transition, which is mandated by House Bill 951.

The bill, which was passed in October 2021, set goals for electric public utilities to significantly limit carbon emissions by 2030 and reach carbon neutrality by 2050.

H.B. 951 requires that all changes must “maintain or improve upon the adequacy and reliability of the existing grid,” through the option that costs the least. The North Carolina Utilities Commission is tasked with enforcing the bill by developing plans with electric public utilities. 

The commission's plans explain how and when changes will be implemented to guarantee both reliability and affordability for customers, which Norton said are priorities of Duke Energy.

Both the initial and upcoming Duke Energy carbon plans employ a strategy that Norton describes as “all of the above.” Both of them facilitate the company's transition to a combination of nuclear power, hydrogen-capable natural gas plants, solar power, wind power and battery storage.

The second carbon plan will likely introduce a modified timeline or composition of the same energy generation methods, according to Norton. 

It will also take into consideration the Inflation Reduction Act, passed by Congress in August 2022, which offers tax incentives for households that transition to renewable energy.

“Customers deserve a clean energy plan that supports communities, that keeps rates as low as possible while ensuring the continued economic competitiveness that North Carolina depends upon,” Norton said.

The first carbon plan was developed with input from shareholders and the public.

The first shareholder meeting to discuss the second plan was held in February and hosted about 250 participants from North and South Carolina. The second meeting is scheduled for March 15 and public input hearings are tentatively scheduled for late 2023 or early 2024, according to Norton.

The Utilities Commission has also required that Duke Energy file its second plan, complete with shareholder input, by September 2023, Norton said.

These meetings are used to allow discussions and proposals among not only shareholders, local businesses and environmental groups. However, some environmental leaders believe the meetings are not as collaborative as they could be. 

Nicholas Jimenez, a staff attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center, said the shareholder meetings were announced but none of the information presented was made available beforehand.

“It’s very hard to just take a bunch of figures off a slide and then offer useful input to Duke,” Jimenez said.

Luis Martinez, Southeast Energy director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the most recent shareholder meeting was remote. Duke Energy disabled the chat, not allowing for questions or comments.

Martinez said the plan doesn't call for enough investment in solar and battery storage that NRDC believes will be necessary to meet the 2030 goal. H.B. 951 seeks to limit carbon emissions to 70 percent of 2005 levels by 2030.

“A big frustration with the Utilities Commission’s plan is that it doesn’t change the trajectory that the state was already on, after years, maybe five years of effort, stakeholder meetings and analysis,” Luis Martinez said.

Martinez added that the plans from the commission are too reliant on commercially unavailable technology, such as small modular reactors and hydrogen plants, rather than well-established technologies — including solar and wind energy.

“We’ve got plenty of technology already that can cut carbon: solar, storage and wind," Nicholas Jimenez said. "We should be planning on that because we know it could work — we know how much it costs. Let’s plan on that.”


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