Op-Ed by Donna Chavis, Jean Su and Jim Warren
A series of monster hurricanes have pummeled eastern North Carolina, devastating its rural communities. Since 2016, Robeson County has seen three so-called “500-year floods” and other steady rains that have turned the Lumbee River – a lifeline for generations – into something people fear.
Eastern communities are also suffering the storm of efforts by Duke Energy to push the dirty Atlantic Coast Pipeline through their communities. They’ve also been hit with repeated rate increases and toxic coal ash pollution while the utility blocks competition from cheaper, cleaner renewable energy solutions. These are symptoms of North Carolina’s badly broken electricity system.
Low-wealth and communities of color are hurt most, but all state residents are harmed by rapid climate disruption and by constant electric bill increases from Duke’s plans for unneeded pipelines, fracked-gas power plants and a $13 billion scheme for unnecessary transmission “improvements.”
Duke Energy, the nation’s largest power provider, generates 90 percent of the electricity used in North Carolina. Based in Charlotte, Duke’s executives have long abused their monopoly privilege and the people of North Carolina are paying the price.
The good news is that solar and wind power – matched with energy storage – can create a more affordable, safer and secure electric system while creating local jobs and community wealth based on market competition and consumer choice. But, even as competitive U.S. markets are rapidly expanding renewables-with-storage, Duke is blocking the way in North Carolina while planning to be only 8 percent renewable in 2033.
How? By spending millions each year – customer dollars – to buy favor with politicians and civic leaders, and to make people think Duke is green. That money is a moral decay that erodes our democracy. It’s time for people across North Carolina to tell their state and local officials to stop taking Duke Energy’s toxic influence money.
That’s why a new, diverse coalition of 15 local, state and national groups has launched a vigorous statewide campaign to end Duke’s monopoly control over North Carolina’s energy markets and public officials. The campaign, called Energy Justice NC: End the Duke Monopoly, is set to open this state to competition and do our part to slow the climate crisis.
The Energy Justice NC coalition is anchored by leaders from communities directly suffering the harms of Duke’s toxic coal ash, the proposed fracked-gas Atlantic Coast Pipeline, hog waste posed as renewable energy and worsening hurricanes caused in part by Duke’s ongoing burning of coal and expanding use of fracked “natural” gas.
Recently the Energy Justice Coalition delivered a letter calling on Gov. Roy Cooper and legislative leaders Phil Berger and Tim Moore to take the lead by personally agreeing to stop taking money from Duke.
The coalition is also launching a statewide petition drive — housed at energyjusticenc.org — for individuals, organizations and businesses. It calls on state leaders to begin a fair process and legislation to revamp our electricity system and open the state to competition.