Press Release | May 29, 2024

North Carolina can achieve clean future with more renewable energy, not Duke Energy’s fossilized plan

Experts testify that monopoly’s Carbon Plan proposal would violate the law

CHAPEL HILL, N.C.— Regulated monopoly Duke Energy’s proposed North Carolina Carbon Plan would violate federal rules governing new gas plants and underinvest in no-regrets, carbon-free, renewable energy resources, a group of clean energy and environmental advocates noted today in testimony filed at the North Carolina Utilities Commission. The Southern Environmental Law Center represents the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and submitted testimony jointly with the NC Sustainable Energy Association in the Carbon Plan and long-term resource plan proceeding. The groups also noted that Duke’s proposed Carbon Plan would miss a state climate deadline by five or more years. 

“North Carolinians and our children deserve a better, cleaner future, unburdened by the cost of more delay,” said David Neal, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “State law requires that Duke Energy stop kicking the can down the road. We hope that, as a regulated monopoly serving the public, Duke will refocus its efforts toward meeting carbon pollution reduction requirements by fully taking advantage of reliable, available clean energy sources.” 

A 2021 bipartisan state law – which Duke helped shape – requires North Carolina’s power sector to reduce heat-trapping carbon pollution 70% below 2005 levels by 2030 and tasks the utilities commission with developing a plan to meet that deadline. Duke’s proposal would slow-walk investment in available, reliable clean energy, extending the timeline for carbon reduction to 2035 or even later. 

“North Carolinians continue to suffer the impacts of stronger storms, hotter summers, more dangerous floods, and rising seas that threaten our coast,” said Luis Martinez, southeast regional director, Climate & Energy, at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “In a rare bipartisan push, the state legislature and our governor moved to address those impacts by significantly reducing carbon emissions from our electric sector. However, Duke Energy continues to disregard state and federal laws, committing ratepayer dollars to expensive and antiquated fossil fuels, while slowing down our transition to affordable clean energy.”  

Testimony submitted by SELC says that in order to comply with state law and meet climate targets affordably and reliably, Duke must accelerate the development of carbon-free, clean energy resources, including solar power, offshore wind, battery storage, and energy efficiency. Duke’s plan currently imposes annual limits on the development of certain clean energy resources like battery storage. 

“We know carbon-free, clean energy resources work for our wallets, our health, and our ability to keep the lights on during both winter storms and hot summer days. We know Duke Energy is capable of helping customers reduce the cost of their energy bills while relying on energy efficiency and distributed resources that are friendly to our planet and our health, as its rebate program for installing home solar and battery systems demonstrates,” said Maggie Shober, research director for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “We urge Duke to expand innovative initiatives, accelerate no-regrets clean energy deployment, and remove artificial barriers that would slow the energy transition. 

Duke’s proposal would result in the construction of five new, massive combine-cycle gas-fired power plants across North and South Carolina by 2033 and would represent one of the largest overall gas buildouts in the country. Gas-fired power plants pollute the climate with carbon and methane, while gas pipelines threaten neighboring communities. Critically, Duke’s gas buildout would breach a federal rule that significantly limits carbon pollution from new gas plants after 2032. 

“It’s insulting to think that Duke’s customers should shoulder the cost of infrastructure that would violate federal standards in a few short years,” said Mikaela Curry, field manager for the Sierra Club. “The utility’s delayed coal retirement schedule and proposal to build out massive methane gas infrastructure is not only dangerous for the climate and public health, but illogical when it comes to meeting the energy needs of North Carolinians in a cost-effective, reliable, and long-term manner.”  

The North Carolina Utilities Commission will authorize a Carbon Plan at the end of 2024. 

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