NC WARN’s updated solar-with-storage plan to be filed with regulators; as clean techs surge, Duke Energy plans to be only 8 percent renewable in 15 years
U.S. and global power companies are rapidly adopting game-changing advances in energy storage systems which – combined with renewable power – are proving cheaper and more reliable than “natural” gas-fired power plants. In North Carolina, large users of electricity will soon knock the bottom out of Duke Energy’s revenue stream by adopting storage with or without solar power, and Duke’s monopoly protection can’t stop them.
Meanwhile, Duke Energy leaders continue trying to block public and regulatory comparison of their plans to a statewide solar-with-storage strategy called NC Clean Path 2025. Duke is opposing NC WARN’s motion for a regulatory hearing that’s standard in most states, where critics can question the legality of a utility’s 15-year planning.
Duke’s successfully deceptive corporate propaganda – its heavily advertised “smarter energy future” – is, in fact, a plan to build 10,000 megawatts of climate-busting, fracked gas-fired generation in the Carolinas, the equivalent of 24 large units, while virtually ignoring renewables and storage.
A Utilities Commission hearing would allow open debate of our NC Clean Path 2025, a strategy by San Diego energy engineer Bill Powers that can rapidly replace coal- and gas-fired power with local solar matched with on-site battery storage and proven energy-balancing programs. The Clean Path will help all state customers and avoid having tens of billions of their dollars wasted on power plants, grid “modernization” and hotly contested fracked gas pipelines.
As it did last year, Duke is fighting against open regulatory and public scrutiny of the Clean Path compared to the “Smarter Energy Future” Duke advertises using millions of customer dollars.
Today NC WARN is releasing an inspiring report that supplements the Clean Path 2025 plan, and we’ll file it with the Utilities Commission. Key updates include:
- Some out-of-state utilities have solar-with-storage projects that are already cheaper than North Carolina’s residential grid power and based on falling prices of lithium batteries.
- A proven zinc-air battery is moving into the U.S. residential/commercial electricity storage market at far lower pricing even than lithium; this could quickly transform the U.S. electric grid into a round-the-clock carbon-free system.
- Many utilities, states, businesses and local governments – some in North Carolina – are already saving big money with innovative storage and microgrid projects.
- Batteries in homes and businesses are serving as “virtual power plants” by allowing the utility to draw upon the stored energy during periods of high system-wide demand.
- NC municipal and cooperative utilities are moving ahead with battery storage – with or without solar – which slashes the “demand charges” that represent roughly half of their wholesale payments to Duke Energy.
- Similarly, businesses, towns and other big power users can gain quick paybacks for storage projects that cut demand charges by shifting the times when power is drawn from the grid.
That factor alone – big users cutting Duke’s demand charge – can allow Duke to retire power plants rather than build new ones. Along with the “virtual power plant” approach and proven energy-balancing and energy-saving programs, which Duke Energy shuns, all coal and “natural” gas-burning power plants in North Carolina can be replaced, as engineer Powers has detailed.
Duke’s “smarter energy future” includes being only 8 percent renewable in 2033 and installing only 260 megawatts of storage. Many other utilities are already many times above those levels and projecting to become mostly renewable – assisted by storage – in the same timeframe.
The climate crisis is approaching a point of no return if dramatic changes aren’t made by around 2020. Much of the world is moving toward renewables-plus-storage. Even more crucial in the near term is for Duke and others to stop pouring unburned methane (aka natural gas) directly into the air, since methane is a far more important greenhouse gas than CO2 in the all-critical near term. Also, we simply must stop cutting down our forests in North Carolina and beyond.
Statewide polls show a strong, bipartisan demand for tackling the climate crisis via a shift to cheaper, clean-energy competition and away from fossil-fuel electricity. Farmers and communities are already being hammered by climate disasters, and it’s getting worse, just as predicted years ago.
For the umpteenth time, NC WARN calls on Duke CEO Lynn Good to join the 21st Century – to go ahead and make the inevitable shift to climate-protecting, cheaper clean energy – and stop pouring unburned, climate-wrecking methane into the atmosphere.