Environmental Groups Outline Steps Duke Energy Must Take to Meet its Stated Climate Goals

January 12, 2021

Joel Porter, Policy Manager, Clean Air Carolina; (704) 307-9528, ext. 105; [email protected]
Andrew Whelan, Marketing Communications Manager, Clean Air Carolina, (919) 408-7031; [email protected]


CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Today a group of environmental advocates and energy experts released a report reviewing and evaluating the climate goals and strategies through 2050, laid out in Duke Energy’s climate report, issued in April 2020. The report also reviews specific carbon reduction scenarios detailed in its Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) submitted to the N.C. Utilities Commission in September.

The report, “A Review of Duke Energy’s 2020 Climate Report and Associated Duke Energy Climate Strategy” presents many detailed findings and eight specific recommendations for Duke Energy. It has been given to Duke Energy for its consideration and incorporation into their corporate operations and planning. Combined, the recommendations indicate that Duke Energy needs to take a strong leadership role in reducing carbon emissions if North Carolina is going to meet the greenhouse gas targets set under the Paris Climate Agreement and the North Carolina Clean Energy Plan.

“We give Duke Energy a lot of credit for creating carbon reduction goals, for strategies to achieve the goals, and for assembling a capable staff with state-of-the-art analytics to make it happen,” said John Gaertner, lead author of the report and retired Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) Technical Executive.

The review process is noteworthy for the engagement and dialogue between the reviewers and Duke Energy’s own experts. As a result, the report reflects an understanding of divergent approaches to the same objective; that is, to achieve as close to zero carbon emissions by the earliest reasonable date. This understanding should help both Duke Energy and the environmental community to move forward together toward that objective.

“What surely comes as no surprise to Duke Energy, we found a complex, urgent, and uncertain path forward to decarbonize. Gaps in supportive policies, low technology readiness, high costs for first-of-a-kind technology, and societal impacts of change must be overcome. Our report focuses on actionable solutions to these issues that we hope will help Duke Energy — with other stakeholders — to affordably, reliably, and equitably mitigate climate impacts,” concluded Gaertner.

The Climate Report Review Group (CRRG) was organized as an initiative by the Charlotte Mecklenburg Climate Leaders (CMCL). CMCL is a coalition of individuals and organizations working to advance climate solutions in collaboration with the City of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, and other partners. As stakeholders working on the implementation of Charlotte’s Strategic Energy Action Plan, the coalition has a keen interest in Duke Energy’s climate goals and supported the group’s efforts to meet with Duke Energy.

“We recognize that Duke Energy must maintain affordability, reliability, and safety. These are three things that, taken together, are difficult to balance. Duke Energy has adjusted its generation and transmission assets to be more diverse, including safely incorporating more renewable generation and energy efficiency technologies. Despite the challenges, North Carolina is a national leader at integrating utility-scale solar energy in a cost-effective way,” said Mike Mazzola, Executive Director of UNC Charlotte’s Energy Production & Infrastructure Center (EPIC).

Every two years Duke Energy submits updated IRPs to detail how it expects to produce electric resources over the next 15 years. The most recent IRP’s released in September 2020 outline expected consumer demand for electricity, the resources Duke Energy requires to meet that demand, pricing rates associated with those resources, and the various strategies and opportunities the company may use to meet its climate goals.

“While Duke Energy has often given a backseat to climate issues over the years, we are encouraged that they are now publicly committing to address the problem. Unfortunately their IRP’s – the legal process that puts the proverbial meat on the bones to their climate goals – indicate that they still have a ways to go to achieve the emission reductions North Carolina needs. Duke Energy must push for serious policy reform if it wants to show it takes climate change seriously,” said Joel Porter, Policy Manager of Clean Air Carolina.

The report recognizes the constraints Duke Energy is working under due to North Carolina state laws that currently inhibit the growth of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. In 2017, the N.C. General Assembly passed HB 589 which extended a (now lapsed) moratorium on wind energy development in the state and severely limited the construction and interconnection of solar to the grid. Both federal and state laws like HB 589 would have to be changed for Duke Energy to meet climate goals. CRRG emphasizes that there are opportunities for Duke Energy to make significant progress in decreasing carbon emissions across the state.

“This report reviewed numerous detailed pathways presented by Duke Energy which could, ultimately, result in attainment of their ‘net-zero by 2050’ carbon goal. The acknowledgment that they can achieve steep reductions is vital. However, one pathway stood out to us as most likely to both meet North Carolina’s climate mitigation goals, which were set in Governor Cooper’s Executive Order 80, and rely on available and commercially viable technologies. We look to  Duke Energy to use its vast influence and infrastructure to work with advocacy and academic communities, the state, and other stakeholders to create the way forward needed to achieve the steep reductions in greenhouse gases that are necessary to protect the environment and mitigate climate chaos,” said Jerome Wagner, lead organizer of the climate group 350 Charlotte.

In addition to Mr. Gaertner, Mr. Porter, Dr. Mazzola, and Mr. Wagner, members of CRRG included:

  • Karen Hodges, report editor; Member, 350 Charlotte

  • J. Donald Keen, Board member, N.C. Climate Solutions Coalition; Chemical Engineer & Marketing Executive, retired

  • Daniel Kreeger, Executive Director, Association of Climate Change Officers

  • Larry Ostema, Partner, Nelson Mullins, Co-chair Energy Industry Group

  • Amanda Robertson, Former Co-chair and Program Director, N.C. Climate Solutions Coalition

  • Ken Szymanski, Consultant



Clean Air Carolina is a statewide nonprofit organization advocating for the health of all North Carolinians by pursuing equitable and collaborative solutions that address climate change and air pollution. www.cleanaircarolina.org

350 Charlotte is a grassroots, all-volunteer civic group focused on climate mitigation advocacy and social justice. We are an autonomous member of the global 350.org network. See the Facebook page “350 Charlotte.”

UNC Charlotte EPIC enhances the available technical workforce, advances technology, and facilitates strategic industry-university collaboration for the global energy industry while supporting the Carolinas’ economic and energy security development.

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