Utilities Commission should abandon Duke Energy’s rigged, profit-driven draft and heed the science calling to end gas/methane expansions
NC WARN commends the NC Sustainable Energy Association, Southern Environmental Law Center and their partners for offering a North Carolina carbon reduction plan that we believe is consistent with the needs of North Carolinians, particularly in terms of climate and economic justice.
We encourage individuals, nonprofits, businesses and Governor Cooper to urge the NC Utilities Commission (NCUC) to abandon Duke Energy’s discredited, climate-wrecking proposal and work together to make the plan by Synapse Energy Economics, the consultant for NCSEA, et al., the best it can possibly be.
We also call on all parties to link their carbon plan thinking to the hyper-urgent call by a globally prominent climate scientist right here at Duke University. Dr. Drew Shindell is leading the planetary warning that reducing the expansion of natural gas (methane) infrastructure is absolutely crucial to efforts to avert widespread climate and social catastrophe, and that curbing methane gas emissions can help “very, very quickly.”
We appreciate that NCSEA, et al., Attorney General Josh Stein, the big tech companies and other parties in the carbon plan docket have shown the NCUC how Duke Energy manipulated its calculations to heavily slant the case for expanding gas over the far cheaper transition to solar-plus-storage, energy-saving and other climate-protecting solutions.
Similarly, NC WARN engineer Bill Powers exposed how Duke rigged its draft plan in numerous other ways to gain approval for up to 11,700 MW of new gas-fired generation (dozens of units) and $19 billion in grid projects. That’s the corporate monopoly approach: build costly projects and raise rates, which especially harms the most vulnerable residents.
Among the many ways the Synapse proposal beats Duke Energy, it retires coal-fired plants faster, adds no new gas-fired plants, and emphasizes energy-saving and distributed generation. These all help keep rates down, cut coal ash and air pollution, and help slow the climate crisis that is disproportionately impacting communities of color.
The NCUC announced Friday its plan for hearing additional evidence on the carbon plan over the next two months. In that process, NC WARN will offer a few amendments to the Synapse plan that could allow even quicker phase-out of existing coal and natural gas power plants.
As detailed in Powers’ report that NC WARN and the Charlotte Mecklenburg NAACP filed in the docket, the billions Duke Energy wants for new gas and grid projects can largely be avoided by siting solar projects up to 5 MW in size closer to where energy use is high. Solar-plus-storage on rooftops, parking areas and open urban spaces would also reduce the need for costly new transmission towers, avoid plowing power lines through already-impacted rural communities, and speed the shift off dirty, dangerous power.
The NCUC should resist deferring to Duke Energy’s draft plan. The carbon plan differs from other dockets where the NCUC must rule on an application by the utility. Legislators instructed the NCUC to write the carbon plan, then the NCUC requested a draft plan from Duke as a first step.
Duke Energy’s draft has been thoroughly discredited and opposed by virtually all parties. Thus, the NCUC should move ahead by perfecting Synapse’s plan. This lets North Carolina finally join the global effort to avert runaway climate change, while building the state’s clean energy economy and helping communities already devastated by climate impacts.
NOTE: Synapse ran a separate analysis of carbon reductions if North Carolina were to join a controversial carbon-pricing program among several East Coast states (RGGI), but Synapse did not make a recommendation on RGGI. Many environmental justice organizations – including NC WARN – have long been concerned that carbon pricing systems cause increased impacts in marginalized communities.