Over the next 15 years, Duke Energy plans to increase how much it relies on renewable energy only modestly—from 1 percent next year to just 2 percent in 2028. The utility is concentrating on natural gas.
This is part of Duke’s annual filing with state regulators, where the utility maps out how it plans to provide energy to North Carolina customers.
Duke has its eye most of all on natural gas, by far the cheapest source of energy currently available. The company reports it plans to add two new natural gas plants, some more turbines, and it will convert an existing coal unit to natural gas. More nuclear is also on the table.
“We look for the most affordable way we can to provide increasingly clean electricity and reliable electricity to our customers,” says Duke Energy spokeswoman Lisa Parrish.
Parrish says Duke is lowering emissions two ways: First, by closing coal plants, the biggest emitters of carbon, in favor of the less carbon-intense natural gas. Second, by improving energy efficiency and encouraging less usage. Duke projects the energy it saves from efficiency and curbing demand will account for about 9 percent of total usage by 2028.
When it comes to renewable energy sources like solar and wind, the plan’s more modest. Duke projects a 1 percent rise, mostly in solar, barring a change in state requirements. Jim Warren of environmental group NC WARN says that is too little.
“When you really look at the commitment to solar and wind energy, Duke’s really a laggard nationally. They’re just not projecting more than a very small amount of their total sales,” says Warren.
Duke counters that those types of energy are more expensive and less consistent. The company makes clear in its filing that it intends only to meet North Carolina’s minimum standards for renewable sources. The state’s 2007 Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard requires 3 percent of retail sales to come from renewable sources or energy efficiency next year, rising to 12.5 percent in 2021.
In its filing with the state utility commission, Duke says it will reach that standard in 2021 with the following formula:
- 25 percent through energy efficiency
- 25 percent through purchasing renewable energy “credits” from other, out-of-state companies
- 40 to 45 percent through purchasing renewable electricity
- 5 to 10 percent from biomass and other non-electrical energy sources