Will Duke Energy hold North Carolina back? Lose its monopoly? Or both?
There’s a ton of good news in the fight to slow the global climate crisis – outside of North Carolina. A key question remains: Will this state finally get out from under Duke Energy’s climate-wrecking, fracked gas obsession and clean-power sabotage in its monopoly-captured territories?
As energy storage for this state is being analyzed by an NC State University-led team, several rooftop installers are already matching batteries with solar on homes and businesses. NC WARN’s storage-with-solar strategy – NC Clean Path 2025 – is gaining steam in key counties despite Duke’s opposition. Nationally, solar-with-storage projects are surging because they’re beating natural gas plants on economics and reliability. Some big utilities are replacing gas with storage; gas plant builders are in rapid demise; and “Natural Gas Drillers are Fighting for their Lives,” as Bloomberg reported earlier this week.
Here are a few more updates on how the energy industry is moving ahead elsewhere while Duke continues hampering storage and renewables in North Carolina and hanging on to the increasingly risky plan to build the Atlantic Coast (fracked gas) Pipeline and some 20 large gas-fired power plants:
“Upending the Electricity Business”
The June 11 cover story in Barron’s is titled “Dramatic advances in storage technology and declining costs of wind and solar energy are upending the electricity business.” Key excerpts:
- “Storage has become a cheap and useful add-on for renewable power projects.”
- “Battery Boom: America’s capacity to store electric power is expected to surge in the years ahead.”
- “Some utilities will enjoy lucrative growth opportunities by, for example, combining renewable power with storage, while others could be left behind …”
- An energy CEO, in comparing storage with peaking gas-fired plants, says “batteries stabilize the grid, so you get more advantages than you pay for.”
- Sterling, Massachusetts installed a 2-megawatt (MW) battery to save money, provide resiliency and, if a grid outage occurs, power the police and fire departments for over a week.
- The U.S. is expected to add 35 gigawatts of storage in the next eight years (equal to 35 large nuclear plants) and generate $4 billion in annual savings.
New York Moves Toward 50% Renewables in 2030, Largely Matched with Storage
In June, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a comprehensive state energy storage roadmap – 1,500 MW by 2025, with plans to nearly double that by 2030, a total equal to three large nuclear power plants. The state will pair storage with renewable power to further the state’s clean energy and climate goals, which include 50% renewable energy generation by 2030. (Utility Dive, June 21, 2018)
Home-scale Solar & Batteries for ‘Virtual Power Station’ in London
Clean Technica reports that a London power network will test a “virtual power station” using only domestic solar panels and Powervault batteries. “The theory is simple: There are already a lot of solar panels atop people’s roofs … Adding batteries to the equation means that the generated electricity can be stored for use” after dark, and excess power can still be sold back to the grid. “However, if you link a number of batteries together, a utility … can instruct the group of batteries to discharge their stored electricity and relieve pressure on the electricity network in high demand situations,” creating a virtual power station. Residents get paid for allowing the utility to tap into their battery-stored electricity. This is already being done by several U.S. utilities, and is a central feature of the NC Clean Path 2025 strategy.
Strong Demand for Solar-with-storage at Buildings, Parking Areas
A May 14 Utility Dive article addresses distributed solar-with-storage (at homes and buildings). NREL, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, points out that solar-with-storage “can be deployed to defer new transmission and distribution investments or to replace peaking capacity [gas plants] in urban areas” (emphasis added). The marketplace is moving toward distributed generation and storage, as former Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers predicted several years ago.
Huge Pumped Storage Already in Place for NC
Just today, NPR ran an excellent story about pumped hydro storage facilities’ ability to smooth out the use of renewables on the U.S. grid. For eight years, NC WARN has pressed state regulators to require Duke Energy to incorporate its giant, 2000 MW pumped storage plants into long-term planning in order to advance renewables in the Carolinas. Those facilities are included in the NC Clean Path 2025 plan.
Duke Blocks Storage and Solar, but Others Lead
As noted above, New York plans nearly 10 times more storage – and 7 times more renewable generation (percentage-wise) by 2030 than Duke Energy does for North Carolina. Meanwhile, Duke has essentially blocked storage projects by independent, large-scale solar developers in the Carolinas as detailed on June 26 by the Charlotte Business Journal.
As we explained on June 26, Duke Energy badly misled North Carolina about HB589, a bill that masks the Duke-Koch effort to hamper the growth of renewables by providing a few short-term benefits and a ton of greenwashing PR.
However, others are providing leadership. Chatham County commissioners recently made a move toward solarizing county-owned facilities based on a recommendation by local residents working together as Chatham Clean Path. That’s part of the growing NC Clean Path 2025 campaign to quickly replace coal- and gas-fired power across the state with solar energy generated close to where it’s used, combined with battery storage and energy-saving programs through on-bill financing – to benefit all customers.
NC WARN again calls on Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good to get on the right side of the fight to avert runaway climate chaos by belatedly joining the jobs-creating clean energy revolution.