Governor, Attorney General being pressed over damage to the solar industry, and over grid projects that would hamper climate action and harm communities
In an open letter sent today, 84 businesses and nonprofits called for NC Governor Roy Cooper and Attorney General Josh Stein to demand open clarification of Duke Energy’s secretive plans* for hundreds of miles of new and expanded power line corridors in a targeted area of North Carolina.
The groups say Duke’s plan to invest $10 billion in high-voltage transmission would damage southeastern communities, farms and forests while driving up power bills statewide.
They say Duke Energy is making the climate crisis worse by aggressively suppressing genuine solutions; Duke’s continuing attacks on net metering rules have seriously harmed the state’s once-growing local solar industry since taking effect October 1.
Similar net metering changes have left California’s “once-thriving residential solar industry in ruins”, with a whopping 80-90% drop in business and loss of over 17,000 solar jobs.
Shalonda Regan of Lumberton nonprofit Seeds of H.O.P.E. said today, “Duke’s grid projects would target many of the same communities still trying to recover from past hurricanes and other flooding events. We want climate solutions like community solar – not more exploitation by Duke Energy.”
Seeds of H.O.P.E. focuses on helping communities recover from earlier flooding and the failed state actions that have prevented thousands of homes from being repaired.
Scientists, social justice groups and other solar advocates have been pressing Cooper for years to stop siding with Duke Energy. In October, the Governor began criticizing the monopoly’s plans to expand fossil fuels and gamble on experimental nuclear reactors for decades.
Today’s letter today calls for him to also speak out against the grid scheme and Duke’s continuing attacks on rooftop solar.
Stein had challenged Duke’s carbon plan and net metering actions in 2022 but has been silent of late. The group letter calls for Cooper and Stein to create an unprecedented process for open decision-making over the state’s energy-climate future. Critics say the NC Utilities Commission routinely rubber-stamps Duke Energy’s plans while thwarting open, fair debate.
Adrienne Kennedy, Director of Seeds of H.O.P.E., said today, “Duke Energy says the grid projects are needed to add larger-than-ever solar farms in what it calls the ‘Red Zone,’ but we think Duke really wants the transmission to shore up its gas and nuclear plans. Those giant solar projects, if ever built, would come online many years from now, far too late to help close fossil fuel plants and help with the climate crisis.”
In a report sent to Cooper and Stein in July, NC WARN showed that local solar-plus-storage – in installations of various sizes – could be scaled up quickly and provide an equitable approach to climate and energy. It cites federal data showing the state has more than 2.5 times the practical solar capacity on roofs, parking areas and unused urban and contaminated lands as needed to meet North Carolina’s decarbonization mandates.
NC WARN has argued that local solar costs could be shared by all utility customers, the same way customers are now all forced to share the costs of Duke’s polluting power plants.
Bobby Jones, of the Down East Coal Ash and Social Justice Coalition, is frustrated by Duke Energy’s actions: “Like the Wizard of Oz, Duke Energy wants us to ignore the man behind the curtain who has historically devastated our communities by burning fossil fuel and improperly storing its residue. Despite the cries from people devastated by those practices, and by multiple floods and other impacts of climate change, this corporation seeks to continue its destruction into the next generation.”
Jim Warren, head of NC WARN, said today, “US monopolies are salivating over the bogus claim that trillions of public dollars must be poured into transmission, fracked gas projects and non-existent nuclear technology. Duke Energy leaders are seeking that three-legged, high-risk gamble for this state, and key to their success is killing the local solar that’s the fastest, cheapest, most equitable way to slow the climate-social crisis.”
NC WARN says today’s letter goes to the heart of whether North Carolina will ever become part of the global struggle for climate-and-energy justice – instead of continuing to go along with Duke Energy’s false solutions and anti-democratic corporate influence.
Jones called out the giant monopoly: “Duke Energy has amassed great wealth with its dirty energy production. Now, instead of investing in a clean and economical path forward, its leaders continue to prioritize profit over people. African proverb: a spotted leopard endures many rains, but his spots never change. Now, the governor needs to take charge”.
*See Duke’s blurred map of transmission corridors made legible by NC WARN.