Worst on coal. Worst on expanding fracked gas. Worst on renewables vs fossil fuels.
Worst on wasting billions on power plants that must close decades before they’re paid for
We commend the Sierra Club for its new “Dirty Truth” report showing Duke Energy Corporation is the worst US electricity provider in paying only lip service to the global climate crisis. The report gives Duke an “F” for planning to build twice as much methane gas-fired generation as any other offender by 2030, planning to keep more coal-fired generating capacity and committing to only minimal replacement of fossil fuels with cheaper renewable power.
As the deadline approaches for legal intervenors to file testimony and expert witness reports on Duke’s 15-year Integrated Resource Plan in the Carolinas, and with a public hearing on the IRP scheduled for March 16, evidence is mounting that Duke Energy leaders remain on the road to climate and economic catastrophe. (See below for how you can make your voice heard.*)
Additional compelling research comes from the Energy Transition Institute and the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA). The former shows Duke is planning nearly 10 gigawatts of new gas units in the Carolinas that will have to be closed decades early due to greenhouse gas restrictions, costing ratepayers up to $4.8 billion, or $900 per customer.
This confirms NC WARN’s long-running claim that Duke’s plan to build 59 gas-fired plants by 2035 – in the Carolinas alone – hinges on leaving monopoly-captive ratepayers to pay the bill long after dirty power plants are forced to close.
Meanwhile, a loophole reported by the Charlotte Business Journal confirms a key assertion in a legal challenge launched in July by NC WARN, Appalachian Voices and the Center for Biological Diversity: Duke Energy is adding expensive, unapproved and unneeded gas-burning capacity to several of its coal-fired plants to justify the continued use of coal for decades.
Highlights from Sierra, IEEFA and ETI about Duke Energy’s climate-busting plans:
- The Charlotte-based parent corporation plans to build nearly 8,000 megawatts of gas-burning power capacity by 2030, double what’s planned by second-place Tennessee Valley Authority.
- Duke plans to keep more coal-fired generation on-line past 2030 than any other US corporation.
- Duke ranks at the bottom for its wind and solar power plans compared to its existing fossil fuel usage. NC WARN adds that Duke continues to aggressively stifle wind and solar in the Carolinas while spending $80 million annually to pretend the opposite.
- Duke Energy’s plans would leave Carolinas customers paying $4.8 billion for gas plants that will be forced to retire well before the end of their useful lives if the goals of the NC Clean Energy Plan and Duke’s own climate commitments are to be met. NC WARN points out that billions more could be stranded by President Biden’s demand that electric utilities stop using all fossil fuels by 2035.
An appalling additional twist: As NC WARN and allies contend in the pending July case and the ongoing challenge to Duke’s 15-year Integrated Resource Plan for the Carolinas, the plan to add 59 gas-fired units comes despite dozens of Duke’s gas units sitting totally idle throughout 2019.
IEEFA reports that Moody’s Investors Service said in 2020 that “Long-term challenges to natural gas infrastructure are increasing.” We agree with IEEFA that “The best solution would be to require the utility to expand its installed solar capacity more quickly, pursue offshore wind and combine those projects with battery storage.”
While some 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 – Duke is only 5% renewable in the Carolinas now, compared with the national average of 17.6% in 2019, and other US utilities exceeding 30%. Duke projects to be at 14% in 2035.
A critically important point: The fastest and cheapest way to avoid climate chaos is to reduce overall energy usage while shifting to renewables-plus-storage. We can’t keep wasting energy as we phase out fossil fuels.
As the Sierra report emphasizes, the practices and plans of Duke Energy and others “are locking us into climate disaster.” There remains a narrow window of time to change that. NC WARN is again placing Duke Energy leaders on prior notice: The people of North Carolina are not willing to keep paying and suffering for the corporation’s mistakes.
We are calling for Governor Roy Cooper and the NC Utilities Commission to either persuade or force Duke Energy leaders to get on the right side of history.
See coverage by WXII