The opposition to Duke Energy’s draft carbon plan goes deep. Scores of parties are opposing – many of them vigorously – Duke’s costly, natural gas-heavy proposal. Included are local governments; faith, social justice and climate justice groups; national, state and local clean energy nonprofits and business alliances; 33 former EPA officials; various business and industrial groups, and the state attorney general’s office.
In reality, Duke Energy stands virtually alone in its ludicrous claim that new fracked gas-burning power plants are a key part of a climate solution. The corporation is seeking approval for four different mixes of future energy generation, but all four contain at least 8,800 megawatts – dozens of new units – of natural gas-fired generation.
Many of the opponents do not usually weigh in at the NC Utilities Commission (NCUC) but have become involved this time, either by submitting public comments, testifying at public hearings, or becoming official intervenors, participating in the arduous legal proceedings at the NCUC.
Meanwhile, the first week of expert hearings on the carbon plan at the NCUC saw intervenors pushing back hard on Duke’s fossil fuel-heavy draft plan.
Update on Expert Hearings
So far, attorneys for the intervenors, including Matthew Quinn representing NC WARN and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg NAACP, have cross-examined Duke Energy witnesses on topics including irregularities in Duke’s carbon plan modeling; inadequate levels of renewables, storage, energy efficiency and rooftop solar in Duke’s plan; and Duke’s load forecasts and reserve margins, which the company inflates in order to justify building new fracked gas-burning power plants even as dozens of units sit idle.
Questioning of Duke by the Commissioners offers some cause for optimism. Commissioner Dan Clodfelter asked Duke about the extent to which its proposed changes to rooftop solar net metering policies would reduce the number of rooftop solar customers, and indicated he may require Duke to do additional modeling on the changes. Commissioner Floyd McKissick asked Duke to submit within 30-45 days an initial analysis of how it could achieve 1.5% annual energy efficiency savings in place of the unambitious 1% included in Duke’s draft plan.
This week features questioning of Duke Energy witnesses on transmission, reliability, and “long lead time” resources in Duke’s plan, such as small modular nuclear reactors, hydrogen fuel and offshore wind.
Listen to the hearing live or watch recordings of last week’s sessions
(Look for “E-100 Sub 179” and choose the date you want)
Or read the transcripts here
Some news reports have said the NCUC must choose from the carbon plan scenarios presented by Duke. Not true! Other plans have been presented, most of which manage to meet the carbon plan targets faster and cheaper with no new gas. And the law specifies it is the NCUC that must write the final carbon plan, not Duke.
Who’s Pushing Back on Duke Energy?
A gas-free “no regrets” plan has been submitted by the NC Sustainable Energy Association, Southern Environmental Law Center, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Natural Resources Defense Council and Sierra Club using the same modeling software Duke used. Attorney General Josh Stein and the “Tech Customers” (Apple, Google and Meta Platforms) have also presented plans to the NCUC that leave Duke’s plan in the dust. NC WARN and Charlotte-Mecklenburg NAACP jointly submitted a report by consultant Bill Powers proposing a much greater emphasis on distributed, customer-owned solar plus storage to avoid massive and costly transmission upgrades. Appalachian Voices is attacking Duke’s failure to address affordability for low-income customers.
New intervenors at the NCUC motivated by the climate emergency include the nationally prominent Environmental Working Group; local climate justice organizations 350 Triangle, NC Alliance to Protect our People and the Places We Live, Charlotte-Mecklenburg NAACP, Redtailed Hawk Collective, Robeson County Cooperative for Sustainable Development, Environmental Justice Community Action Network, Down East Coal Ash Environmental and Social Justice Coalition and NC Interfaith Power & Light; some municipal governments (Buncombe County, City of Asheville, City of Charlotte); and an Asheville economist – intervening as an individual and representing himself – who led development of Duke Energy’s first economics-based load forecasting software.
The public comments received by the NCUC to date are replete with heartfelt and expert arguments as well. They include:
- a 7-page letter from 33 former staff and managers of the US Environmental Protection Agency, urging the NCUC to adopt a plan with no gas and to consider the climate risk of methane and the impacts on environmental justice communities
- a letter from 8 local governments (Chatham County; the cities of Durham, Greensboro and Raleigh and the Towns of Boone, Chapel Hill, Hillsborough and Matthews) recommending that the NCUC adopt a robust, ambitious carbon plan that will help municipalities achieve their own carbon reduction targets
- a petition signed by 3,473 people and submitted by the NC Conservation Network urging the NCUC to adopt a carbon plan that prioritizes renewables and not new gas
- faith-based pleas from Interfaith Creation Care of the Triangle, Orange-Chatham Interfaith Care for Creation and the Pittsboro Presbyterian Church Creation Justice Team
- a letter from seven environmental organizations urging the NCUC to gather more input from environmental justice communities, beware of plans posing excessive financial risk, address energy burden and – above all – to write its own carbon plan, not accept Duke’s draft.
All these groups and individuals are recognizing the climate emergency and rising to the occasion. Is it too much to expect that our utility do the same?