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NC CLEAN PATH 2025: Frequently Asked Questions

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What goals does NC CLEAN PATH 2025 achieve?

NC CLEAN PATH 2025 will use onsite solar, battery storage, and energy-saving programs to reduce power generated by coal- and natural gas-fired plants 57% by 2025. By 2030, all coal-fired plants will be closed and gas-fired plants will be used only for backup supply. NC CLEAN PATH 2025 will create 16,000 good jobs across the state in the first three years and save North Carolinians $10s of billions over the energy future proposed by Duke Energy.

See more in the report’s executive summary.

How can the utilities participate in NC CLEAN PATH 2025?

Customer investments in solar, batteries, and efficiency can be facilitated by utility programs that offer on-bill financing for these upgrades. Read more about on-bill financing on page 93 of the full report.

Duke Energy and cooperative or municipal utilities can also facilitate community solar programs, which allow customers who cannot generate solar power on their own property to acquire a share of a larger system constructed in the area by the utility (or a solar developer in conjunction with the utility). Read more about transitioning to a clean energy economy in Chapter 4 of the full report.

Isn’t Duke Energy already doing a lot of solar projects?

Duke claims that it supports solar power but its official documents prove that renewables would make up only 6% of its total generation in the Carolinas in 2031 (and that Duke is stuck at 1% now). The company has invested billions in solar and wind in other states where it must compete for energy sales. In the Southeast, however, monopoly utilities like Duke work with the Koch brothers to assert control over state governments to stifle the growth of renewables.

How much will NC CLEAN PATH 2025 cost ratepayers?

Customers don’t pay anything extra. Through on-bill financing and use of the 30% federal tax credit, payments for solar, batteries and energy-saving programs become a substitute for regular monthly power bills, not additional costs out of pocket. And the availability of that clean power will stabilize, if not lower, monthly utility bills even for most non-solar customers – compared to most utility plans that will keep monthly power bills going up and up.

So, the clean path becomes the regular cost of electricity service, not an added burden.

Is solar for homes and other buildings really cheaper than my current retail utility rate?

For residential customers of most NC utilities, onsite solar provides a kilowatt-hour rate that is lower than the utility retail rate. For commercial customers, solar plus battery storage for daily use is now far below the price of retail grid power and, according to government and industry data, cheaper than power from new natural gas-burning plants.

The “costs for clean power” will stabilize, if not lower, the monthly utility bill for most customers. On top of that, the clean path avoids the hard-to-measure but very real health and environmental costs of fossil fuels.

Are the battery technologies needed for NC CLEAN PATH 2025 available and affordable?

Tesla, Tabuchi and other companies now have battery systems on the market – available through NC solar installers – for daily use alongside solar at homes and other buildings. Onsite battery storage is cost-effective, and even more so if customers are fairly compensated for allowing utilities to draw on them during periods of high regional demand.

For commercial customers, solar plus battery storage for daily use is now far below the price of retail grid power.

Meanwhile, solar and battery prices keep declining as utility rates keep rising. Read more about the cost of local solar power and battery storage in Chapter 5 of the full report.

Are there health, safety or environmental concerns with solar panels or batteries?

The NC Clean Energy Technology Center at NC State University published Health and Safety Impacts of Solar Photovoltaics in May 2017. The report concludes that

[solar] photovoltaic (PV) technologies and solar inverters are are not known to pose any significant health dangers… risks of site contamination are much less than for most other industrial uses because PV technologies employ few toxic chemicals and those used are used in very small quantities. Due to the reduction in the pollution from fossil-fuel-fired electric generators, the overall impact of solar development on human health is overwhelmingly positive.

Batteries for electricity storage rely largely on lead and lithium and must be kept sealed. It is important that local governments and the battery industry support effective recycling programs. The value of lead and lithium provide a strong incentive for such efforts.

Can NC CLEAN PATH 2025 be implemented in other states?

Absolutely. Local solar and battery costs are falling across the country and becoming cost-competitive with power from fracked gas power plants. Due to the climate crisis, NC WARN urges all states to pursue implementation of local solar power, battery storage, and energy efficiency measures to quickly replace fossil fuel-generated electricity.

Don’t renewables always need gas-fired plants to back up them up, as some utilities claim?

Those claims are misleading. Natural gas-fired “peaking” plants currently provide generation at times of high demand. Under NC CLEAN PATH 2025, however, peak demand will be met by local solar power paired with battery storage, and enhanced demand response programs will be used to greatly reduce those peaks. These local resources will be supplemented as needed by existing hydro plants and solar projects, existing nuclear plants, and Duke Energy’s 2,140 MW of pumped storage plants, which act as very large batteries. The existing natural gas-fired power plants will then serve as backup systems only when supply from all those sources is inadequate. Over time, the gas plants will be gradually phased out.

How can I help implement NC CLEAN PATH 2025?

We need residents across North Carolina to engage with neighbors, faith leaders and local elected officials to implement policies and programs that promote the renewable energy and efficiency measures called for in NC CLEAN PATH 2025. Building public pressure for Duke Energy and other utilities to offer incentives, such as on-bill financing and community solar programs, will also help make this transition to a clean, affordable energy future a reality – and make North Carolina a model for other states to achieve the same.

NC WARN has created an Action Plan to help local governments and residents start implementing NC CLEAN PATH 2025.

To get involved, please fill out this form.