By Jeff St. John
Duke Energy’s plan to build gigawatts of new natural gas generators to supply its grid over the next 15 years has already drawn fire from clean energy advocates, who say it violates the utility’s long-range decarbonization goals and could leave customers paying for power plants that can’t economically compete with cleaner alternatives.
This week, environmental groups, consumer advocates and business organizations raised more opposition in filings with the North Carolina Utilities Commission, saying that Duke misrepresented data about its winter peak electricity needs, as well as the relative cost of power plants versus solar power backed with batteries, to justify this natural gas buildout.
That’s reason enough, these groups say, for regulators to demand that Duke rework its plans — and they’ve laid out their own solar and battery-heavy replacement options for consideration.
Tuesday’s filings add new data to longstanding critiques of Duke’s integrated resource plan (IRP) for its North and South Carolina utilities Duke Energy Carolinas and Duke Energy Progress. Of the six “pathways” Duke lays out for halving carbon emissions by 2030 and reaching net-zero carbon by 2050, only one would avoid building new natural gas plants. The rest propose between 6.1 gigawatts and 9.6 gigawatts of new natural gas capacity.
“We’ve been pointing to Duke’s excess capacity for several years now,” Warren said. “It’s one of the most important things the commission is supposed to do, which is prevent costly overbuilding.”