By Catherine Morehouse
Duke Energy, Dominion Energy and Southern Company are not making investments consistent with their clean energy goals, according to a report released Monday from Synapse Energy Economics.
Over 50 utilities across the U.S. have some sort of carbon reduction goal, according to the Smart Electric Power Alliance, but as more utilities aim for ambitious clean energy targets, some groups worry their actions may not match their commitments.
When Duke first announced its mid-century goals, for example, many were skeptical of the utility’s strategy behind that plan, which relies heavily on natural gas buildouts through the 2030s. And Dominion’s announcement earlier this year came alongside the purchase of an additional share of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which both utilities say will be critical to their long-term gas needs.
“The near-term actions [of these companies] aren’t consistent,” with a net-zero 2050 goal, or with the more incremental but still substantial carbon reductions needed to get to that mid-century figure, Bruce Biewald, founder and CEO of Synapse and co-author of the report told Utility Dive.
“[C]ontrary to what Southern Company, Dominion Energy, and Duke Energy say on their websites, in television ads, and in shareholder reports and pamphlets, the three companies are thus far taking minimal actions to decarbonize their electricity systems,” according to the report. “[N]one of the three companies examined in this report will meet their 2050 greenhouse gas reduction goals under their current resource plans.”
Overall, the analysis found that 72% of coal plant retirements across the three companies have been replaced with natural gas, while an additional 22 GW of gas plant buildouts are projected across the utilities’ service territories over the next 10 to 20 years. Dominion has plans to build out almost 4.3 GW of gas between 2022 and 2040, Duke has almost 15 GW planned between 2020 and 2034 and Southern is planning 2.4 GW between 2023 and 2028.