You may recall that a bipartisan 2021 state law directed the North Carolina Utilities Commission to approve a plan for the state’s electric public utilities by December 31, 2022, to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 70% by 2030 as compared to 2005 levels, with ultimately achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.
Duke Energy, the state’s dominant electric provider, offered four different portfolio options last spring, three of which would delay meeting the 70% reduction until 2032 or 2034.
Critics of Duke’s plans said they relied too much on natural gas or unproven technologies and would make customer bills too costly. Some environmental and clean-energy groups offered in July 2022 their own carbon-reduction plan that reached the 70% reduction mandate by 2030 – relying more on solar, wind and battery energy storage.
The seven-member commission (Charlotte Mitchell – Chair, ToNola Brown-Bland, Dan Clodfelter, Kimberly Duffley, Jeffrey Hughes, Karen Kemerai, and Floyd McKissick) held 13 days of hearings with expert witness testimony and five public hearings. In addition, they said they received hundreds of comments from consumers. But they declined to pick any specific portfolios and said it is “not appropriate” now to determine whether to delay the 70% reduction deadline beyond 2030. The 137-page commission report said it was adopting “all reasonable steps” that the state law ordered to achieve the reduction and directed near-term actions “that support many of the portfolios the parties to this proceeding present.”
The North Carolina utility regulators told Duke Energy Corporation to carry out a series of activities to generate electricity that they say will help ensure greenhouse gas reductions set in a new state law are met. But did not endorse any particular mix of energy sources to meet the mandates currently required for 2030. The order requires Duke Energy’s subsidiaries in North Carolina to optimally retire its remaining coal-fired plants by 2035, in keeping with a previous announcement by the company.
The order also directed Duke Energy to conduct by 2024 two more competitive procurements for solar generation that will come online by 2028. The utility also authorizes Duke to procure battery storage to contain the solar-generated electricity; study the acquisition of wind-lease areas off the North Carolina coast; extend the licenses of its current nuclear power fleet and consider new nuclear generation; and plan for additional natural gas-fired turbines.
The commission is already required to review the plan every two years, and this order directs Duke to file a new proposal by September — which reflects the new directives and recent federal legislation — and prepare for hearings in May 2024. Still, the order could be challenged at the state Court of Appeals.
Photo Credit: Saber Partners