by Joel Porter
North Carolina’s roadmap for meaningful climate action must include Duke Energy. The electricity sector is the largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions in the state, and Duke Energy is the biggest energy producer. It’s why the recent, ambitious climate goals set by the company are such a big deal.
But how does Duke Energy plan to meet these goals? Every two years the company submits an updated integrated resource plan (IRP) to state regulators, detailing how Duke Energy expects to consume and produce resources over the next 15 years. Their most recent IRP, released in September 2020 outlines 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.
Clean Air Carolina and our partners have published a report evaluating Duke Energy’s publicly-stated climate goals and comparing those to the specific carbon reduction strategies outlined in their IRP. This report is the culmination of several months’ hard work and takes a detailed look at the company’s ability to reduce pollution, their needs moving forward, and the various policy and technological pathways that they might use to achieve these goals. John Gartner, a retired Technical Expert with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), led a team of advocates and energy experts in developing the report and facilitating a series of meetings with Duke Energy’s own experts.
This effort called itself the Climate Report Review Group (CRRG) and was organized under the Charlotte Mecklenburg Climate Leaders, a coalition working to advance climate solutions in collaboration with the City of Charlotte. Members of the CRRG include:
- John Gaertner, Technical Expert, EPRI
- Professor Mike Mazzola, Executive Director, Energy Production & Infrastructure Center, UNC Charlotte;
- Jerome Wagner, lead organizer 350 Charlotte;
- Karen Hodges, report editor; Member, 350 Charlotte;
- J. Donald Keen, Board member, NC Climate Solutions Coalition; Chemical Engineer & Marketing Executive, retired;
- Daniel Kreeger, Executive Director, Association of Climate Change Officers;
- Larry Ostema, Co-chair, Energy Industry Group, Nelson Mullins;
- Amanda Robertson, Former Co-chair and Program Director, NC Climate Solutions Coalition;
- Ken Szymanski, Consultant;
- And myself, Joel Porter, Policy Manager, Clean Air Carolina.
The report includes 47 findings, eight recommended actions, and raises a number of questions and concerns that CRRG and Clean Air Carolina hope the company will address moving forward. Among those findings and recommendations, the report identifies several problems with current state energy generation, transmission, and distribution policy that must be changed in order to allow the affordable build-out of renewable generation resources.
One of the best opportunities for North Carolina to build out additional renewable energy resources would be for our state to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, which would enter us into an emissions trading program with our neighboring states. Clean Air Carolina, in partnership with the Southern Environmental Law Center and the NC Coastal Federation, has filed a petition for rulemaking urging the NC Environmental Management Commission to include our state’s largest carbon emitters in RGGI, and thereby begin to regulate our carbon emissions more effectively. For more information about what RGGI, please read our Q&A on the topic.
Obviously, comprehensive climate legislation from the federal government is the most efficient and optimal way to reduce carbon nationally (and internationally). Unfortunately, Congress’ track record on passing any kind of comprehensive market-based climate policy package, is so far…dismal.
As the CRRG report notes in its findings, and as Duke Energy’s own analysis indicates, even a modest price on carbon, such as the price set by RGGI (currently around ~$6/ton CO2), will spur on the addition of more renewable energy source to our electric grid and could potentially lower North Carolina’s carbon emissions enough to reach our target goal of 70% by 2030.
We believe that a comprehensive energy and climate plan is available to North Carolina. One that is pro-economic growth, environmentally advantageous, and can serve as a model that other states can emulate. Adopting the findings and recommendations in this report, joining RGGI, pursuing opportunities from other ongoing policy discussions are all a part of achieving that comprehensive plan.