Despite “climate plan” and greenwashing TV ads, 15-year Carolinas plan leaves Duke a national laggard on cheaper renewable power
It’s no wonder Duke Energy executives spend $80 million annually to buy favor and mislead the public, including TV ads stuffed with solar panels. In the real world, Duke is a key driver of the global climate crisis and seems to be striving for Number One.
In the Carolinas, Duke plans to greatly expand its burning of fracked gas – and expand coal use – even as dozens of its gas units sit totally unused, while continuing to limit the growth of cheaper renewable power.
As Duke’s slogan goes, “Get the Facts.” These are from official documents including Duke’s latest Integrated Resource Plan for the Carolinas:
5%: Duke’s current renewable portion of total generation – compared with the national average of 17.6% last year, and other US utilities exceeding 30%. Duke projects to be at 14% in 2035.
33%: increase in projected proportion of coal in Duke’s overall energy generation mix between 2020 and 2021.*
50: approximate number of gas-burning power units Duke plans to build by 2035 – at an unknown number of sites – totaling 9,600 megawatts (MW).
24: number of Duke gas-burning turbines that sat totally idle in 2019.
2035: year President-elect Biden says electric utilities must stop using all gas and coal – same year Duke plans to build 2,000 MW of gas-fired plants.
2015: year climate experts working with NC WARN began calling for Duke Energy to stop building gas-fired power plants and pipelines.
With power plants designed to operate and be paid off over a 40-year period, Duke Energy is gambling that its monopoly-captive ratepayers will be stuck paying billions for the 50 new gas units even when they are forced to retire decades earlier due to greenhouse gas limits.
Meanwhile, other utilities are increasingly shifting from coal and gas to renewables paired with battery -storage – because that approach is cheaper, more reliable and creates good jobs.
All this adds up to one more inescapable fact: NC WARN and the Center for Biological Diversity are teaming up again to legally challenge the most important 15-year plan ever filed in North Carolina. Stay tuned for more in early 2021.
* Duke’s 2019 IRP (p. 73) projected that 12% of its generation would be from coal in 2020. Its 2020 IRP (p. 107) projects that 16% of generation will be from coal in 2021 (base case scenario with carbon policy).