Charlotte Mecklenburg NAACP and NC WARN call for regulators to reject proposal, adopt cheaper approach that protects health, communities through clean, affordable power
The Charlotte Mecklenburg NAACP and NC WARN today said Duke Energy’s draft carbon plan for North Carolina is a scam designed to keep expanding the use of the very methane gas that is devastating communities and the global climate. Scientists say reducing the expansion of gas infrastructure is crucial to humanity’s efforts to avert climate and social catastrophe, yet Duke plans to expand its use even more than it had projected in 2020.
The groups say Duke’s plan would maintain its decades of injustice – especially to the most vulnerable residents – by continuing coal pollution for at least 13 years and by building scores of gas-fired units even as dozens sit idle year-round, thus driving up power bills for decades.
They say Duke Energy’s plan, if approved, would gamble the state’s wellbeing on costly, false solutions such as hydrogen fuel and experimental nuclear reactors while suppressing cheaper and available approaches like rooftop solar paired with on-site storage, and energy-saving programs. Their attorney today filed comments with the NC Utilities Commission based on analysis by San Diego engineer Bill Powers.
Powers shows that Duke Energy made numerous misrepresentations that grossly distort the costs and benefits of solar and battery storage, and that building dozens of gas-fired units could cost twice what Duke is apparently projecting. He also shows that Duke’s plan would spend billions to build transmission lines to move electricity from rural solar farms and gas-burnings plants to cities.
Much of those costs – and disruption of communities – could be avoided by expanding the untapped potential for generating solar at or near where it’s used, and storing the power on-site for nights and rainy days. North Carolina has far more space for solar panels on rooftops, parking lots and available urban land as needed to meet its 2050 emissions goals. These points are laid out in a counter-proposal presented in Powers’ analysis, which also recommends that all coal-fired generation be halted immediately due to large amounts of excess capacity on Duke’s system.
Rev. Corine Mack, President of the Charlotte Mecklenburg NAACP, said today, “Duke Energy’s carbon plan ignores the experiences and realities of BIPOC communities and demonstrates a disregard for a “just and equitable” energy transition. As we approach one of the greatest turning points in human history due to climate change, the Charlotte Mecklenburg NAACP is urging the Utilities Commissioners to “see us” and meaningfully address and mitigate these impacts.”
Despite spending millions annually on what critics call “greenwashing” and influence spending, Duke Energy is near the bottom nationally in advancing renewable power. That’s particularly true of solar-plus-storage, which other large US utilities – including Duke rival Florida Power & Light – are embracing as superior in cost and reliability to building more gas-fired generation.
In the draft carbon plan, Duke actually cuts – by one-third – its 2020 projection for future rooftop solar. That’s in line with its current, hotly contested effort to change residential net metering rules.
Instead of building fewer natural gas-fired generating units than previously planned – as hinted in early attention to the 883-page draft plan, the details show Duke could build up to 22 percent more gas units than planned in 2020, which is nearly 12 gigawatts of generation (dozens of new units) in coming decades. New nuclear reactors could approach a similar scale if ever completed.
Although Duke publicly claims that most of those gas units could be converted to burn hydrogen, the details show hydrogen would generate only 5% of the power in gas-fired units by 2041. NC WARN says the hydrogen and “small modular” nuclear reactors are long-sought but elusive technologies that will likely never be built, much as Duke wasted billions trying to build “new” reactors a decade ago, and that the default would be to build even more gas-fired generation.
Jim Warren, NC WARN’s director, said today, “Duke Energy executives are pushing a scam, pretending to care about climate devastation while shamelessly rigging data and misleading state regulators and the public. Duke Energy executives remain out of touch with North Carolinians, and they keep relying on their corporate muscle instead of justifying their plans honestly.”
The world’s scientists – led by Duke University’s Drew Shindell – have pressed for a halt to new natural gas infrastructure. In May, Shindell’s latest study showed that “Slashing emissions of carbon dioxide by itself isn’t enough to prevent catastrophic global warming … But if we simultaneously also reduce emissions of methane and other often overlooked climate pollutants, we could … give the world a fighting chance.”
NC WARN and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg NAACP are calling for a system-wide approach whereby all customers share the benefits of clean, affordable power – the flip side of how we’re now forced to “share” the many costs of dirty, expensive energy.
Rev. Corine Mack added: “Governor Cooper has instructed state agencies to address the disproportionate impacts of climate change on low-income communities, which include Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities. Despite the urgency of this ‘code red’ moment, Duke Energy’s carbon plan is, instead, a barrier to achieving those mandates. We insist that the State of North Carolina begin to prioritize people over corporate profits.”