Duke Energy starts work on a Carbon Plan 2.0 in North Carolina
Just two months after North Carolina regulators signed off on Duke Energy's long-range plan for reducing carbon emissions, the company on Wednesday kicked off planning for a new version.
You might call this Carbon Plan 2.0. It's required by North Carolina's 2021 energy reform law, House Bill 951, which set goals for cutting electricity-sector carbon dioxide emissions to help fight climate change.
More than 230 people signed on to the first in a series of meetings with business, environmental and customer groups. Duke strategy and planning chief Swati Daji said the company has to balance several factors as it maps out how to eliminate carbon emissions by 2050.
"Customers need affordability, reliability and increasingly clean energy. We believe taking into account the diverse range of perspectives that we will hear today, and in the future meetings, is just prudent," Daji said.
At this first session, Duke discussed how it forecasts electricity demand. Duke planner Glen Snider said December's cold snap that led to power outages shows that the company needs to have enough electricity to meet even rare spikes in demand.
"It's not just peak demand in the winter, peak demand in the summer. It's really having a resource mix that can reliably meet needs every hour of every day into the future," Snider said.
That's why Duke has to plan more generating capacity, he said.
The meetings will help Duke revise last year's initial carbon plan. It spells out how the company plans to shift to cleaner energy by closing coal-fired power plants, improving the transmission network and adding renewable energy, battery storage and small nuclear reactors.
More meetings are planned in the coming months, a process similar to the one that led to the first carbon plan last year. Duke faced major disagreements with business and environmental groups and North Carolina's attorney general last year over how it developed its model for shifting to new types of electricity generation. Daji said the company hopes to improve on that this year.
"Based on your feedback, our engagement with you will be more technical in nature. And with the intent to clearly creating alignment on the modeling inputs where we can, and learning more about each other's different perspectives, where we may be apart," she said.
But on Wednesday, some participants were critical of the first meeting's virtual format. Mikaela Curry of the Sierra Club said Duke disabled the chat function that had allowed participants in last year's stakeholder meetings to collaborate and share information. And she said the meeting's moderator tightly controlled who could ask questions.
"I would characterize it much more as a presentation than a stakeholder engagement session," Curry said.
In December, the North Carolina Utilities Commission issued an order that largely endorsed Duke's plans. That disappointed representatives from business and environmental groups who had offered their own versions of a carbon plan, which called for a faster shift toward renewable energy and battery storage. They worried that Duke's plan would not meet the goals in the energy reform law of cutting carbon emissions 70% from 2005 levels by 2030 and reaching carbon neutrality by 2050.
"We are hoping that in this process the utility commission takes more leadership to push Duke in the direction that we need to achieve the goals that we set," Curry said.
Duke expects to file the updated plan with state regulators on Sept. 1. It's also planning to submit a similar long-range plan in South Carolina by Aug. 15.
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