by Joel Porter
The draft Carbon Plan submitted by Duke Energy last month is a good starting point that North Carolina can build on. Unfortunately, the proposed plan ultimately falls short of the carbon reduction targets set by HB951.
In the Plan’s current form, only one of the four proposed pathways to decarbonization Duke outlined would meet the target of a 70% decrease in emissions by 2030. Under the pretense of finding a “least-cost” pathway, Duke Energy sets an artificial speed limit on clean energy expansion while delaying coal plant closures and prolonging the use of methane gas.
The environmental advocacy community has also expressed serious concerns about protections for low-income communities from price spikes since the passage of HB951. Duke Energy’s draft Carbon Plan, which estimates that some bills could climb to $56 or higher, is proof positive that those concerns were justified. CleanAIRE NC and several other organizations submitted letters to the NCUC calling for the inclusion of voices from historically underserved communities in this process. Duke Energy should have consulted these communities at the outset of the process, before proposing a plan that could have inequitable outcomes.
The good news is that Duke Energy’s Carbon Plan is only a proposal, one we still have an opportunity to shape. Clean energy advocates and other parties intervening in this Utilities Commission docket have until July 15 to review Duke’s draft plan and file their critiques, or to submit their own alternative plans. The NC Utilities Commission will also hold five public hearings in July and August to listen to public input on the Plan. We need people to get involved in this process to ensure the NC Carbon Plan is developed with the public interest truly in mind.
This proposal has also increased our conviction that North Carolina should join our neighbor states in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). Joining RGGI will ensure that Duke Energy is held accountable for its emissions and provide a revenue stream that can be used to protect ratepayers from any increased costs. A rulemaking to join RGGI is currently underway at the NC Department of Environmental Quality.
We look forward to continuing to work with our partners and our members to shape this process throughout the rest of the year, and are hopeful that North Carolina will create a Carbon Plan that is equitable, affordable, and sustainable.