Every year, Duke Energy submits a plan to state regulators, showing how it will continue to supply power to the Carolinas over the next 15 years. It projects how the energy mix will change, what new power plants the company intends to build—how much will come from solar, wind, or coal. The most recent plan is out, and WFAE’s Ben Bradford joined All Things Considered Host Mark Rumsey for a quick survey of how Duke sees the energy landscape in 2029.
RUMSEY: Ben, what are we looking at here?
BRADFORD: You look at the report and you see familiar, proven technologies—so, no cold fusion. Fossil fuels still make up the largest part of the mix, followed by nuclear, followed by renewable energy. Part of the reason for that is power plants last a long-time, so in 15 years, Duke expects to mostly be using the same plants it uses now.
RUMSEY: What’s the biggest change?
BRADFORD: Major investments in natural gas—that’s probably the biggest. The company plans to build another eight natural gas plants from 2015 to 2029. And that’s because natural gas is cheap, and Duke projects that it will stay that way. So, they’re investing in it, and it’s becoming a replacement especially for coal. In 2029, Duke expects to have six coal plants left in the state.
RUMSEY: What about renewable energy? Solar and wind currently make up low single digit percentages of Duke’s total mix.
BRADFORD: It’s still a low number in terms of the overall mix, although far larger than what’s online now. Duke projects that it will add about seven times more solar power. That’s still only four percent for its Carolina utilities. Company spokeswoman Lisa Parrish argues that overall, the amount of clean energy is much higher.
PARRISH: We’re looking for emission free resources, and we get that through renewable energy, we get that through energy efficiency, and we also get that through hydro electric power and even nuclear energy. All of those are emission free resources.
BRADFORD: If you accept that definition of clean energy, then it’s about 50 percent of the mix by 2029. As she alluded, Duke is still pursuing a new nuclear plant – that’s the Lee nuclear plant in Cherokee, South Carolina.
One of things that’s interesting is that, as we’ve covered here before, the company has to buy solar from private developers under a certain size. It’s trying to change policies that have made solar so viable – like tax credits and the scope of the contracts. But Duke has limited control over how much solar it buys. One thing that’s interesting is that the amount of solar in this year’s report is more than twice as large as they projected last year.