The Path to a Fossil-Free NC

In October 2021, the North Carolina General Assembly and Governor Cooper signed a new energy bill into law. The new law called on the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC) to develop a carbon plan for the state by the end of 2022 that would reduce carbon dioxide emissions to 70% below 2005 levels by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

Duke Energy, which provides electricity to more than 2 million North Carolina families, filed a proposed carbon plan this spring. The final plan will have far-reaching implications for the Tar Heel state’s economy, climate efforts, and public health — but Duke’s doesn’t meet the moment or put North Carolinians first. 

Our Vision

People Power NC, a group of clean energy and social justice organizations, envision a North Carolina where everyone, no matter where they live, has a right to clean and affordable energy, and is assured of equitable energy production, transmission, distribution and consumption that doesn’t harm our health, pollute our soil, air and water, or further devastate our climate.

We envision a North Carolina centered on anti-racist energy policies that are determined democratically, with democratic accountability at all levels of government.

We envision a North Carolina that is fossil fuel-free and powered by renewable energy, with a clean energy economy where workers are free to unionize, valued for their work, and guaranteed a living wage irrespective of their occupations or employers.

We’ve outlined 12 principles for a carbon planning process that would establish North Carolina as a leader in the country for emissions reduction. With these principles, the NCUC would begin to build a modern, fossil-free energy system that works for every North Carolina home and business.

A carbon plan in the public interest would...

Be the Responsibility of the North Carolina Utilities Commission

 

The law states clearly that the carbon reduction goals, and the plan that dictates how Duke Energy will achieve them, are the responsibility of the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC). This is important to ensure that the carbon plan represents the interests of North Carolina citizens, not Duke Energy’s investors.

Center Stakeholder Feedback

 

Every North Carolina city, business, and household will be impacted by the design of the carbon plan. They all deserve to make their voices heard and share their valuable input. The process should be transparent and accessible for all, with an explicit focus on environmental justice.

Establish comprehensive metrics for success

 

The carbon plan must outline a clear and transparent method for identifying carbon dioxide equivalent emissions from electric generating facilities and measuring reductions on an annual basis. Reports on plan goals must be released annually to the public with a complete inventory of system emissions included.

Reflect Work From the Previous Energy Plan Process

 

Throughout 2019 and 2020, North Carolina conducted a clean energy stakeholder process that produced the NC Clean Energy Plan (CEP), the Power Sector Carbon Reduction report, and the North Carolina Energy Regulatory Process (NERP) report. Many local governments, nonprofit  organizations, academic institutions, and subject matter experts contributed to that process, analyzing a variety of policies that could accelerate decarbonization. The carbon plan should, at a minimum, acknowledge and evaluate emissions scenarios that would result from adopting the policies examined during the CEP process.

Maximize Near-Term Deployment of Renewable Resources and Storage

Decarbonizing the grid on a timeline that will help the world avoid the worst impacts of global warming will require the immediate retirement of fossil fuel facilities and the rapid integration of renewable generation capacity onto the grid. Fortunately, the technology we need to do this already exists.

Set an Ambitious Timeline for Closing Coal

Duke Energy’s coal plants make energy unnecessarily expensive and disproportionately pollute the air and water in communities of color and low-wealth communities. Duke should close half of its coal fleet by 2025; achieve coal-free energy by 2030; and include support for just, community-led transition plans for coal plant communities.

Allow No New Gas

We need a carbon plan that helps us meet our targets without new gas infrastructure. Climate scientists say that, in addition to reducing carbon dioxide emissions, it is critical to reduce emissions of methane immediately if we are to prevent catastrophic climate change. Building new gas will also force ratepayers to foot an exorbitant bill — even after the gas plants are no longer running. 

Capture Maximum Benefits of Customer-Owned Resources

Today, most electricity generation occurs at large, centralized facilities that require the use of long transmission and distribution lines to carry electricity to customers. However, if customer-owned resources (such as solar, batteries and electric vehicles at homes, warehouses, or schools) can serve as distributed power plants across the service area, our grid will be more resilient and will give customers the energy independence they have long sought.

Lead to Fair and Affordable Rates

Achieving net zero by 2050 will require new investments in the grid that may require additional capital and operational funding. Fortunately, renewable, clean energy technologies like solar and wind are the cheapest energy sources available today. When designing the carbon plan, the NCUC should consider how it will affect future electricity rates, ensure Duke Energy passes on savings from decarbonization to customers, and require that Duke continue to invest in programs to increase energy security so that all North Carolinians have access to the electricity needed to power their homes and ensure a dignified life for all.

Address Historic Harms from Fossil Fuels and Dirty Energy

Communities living in the shadow of dirty power plants have already paid dearly for our reliance on energy sources that are not clean—suffering more health impacts and adverse impacts to local economies than other communities. To ensure a just transition, a carbon plan must acknowledge the role these facilities continue to play in communities across North Carolina and ensure their voices are heard in visioning a clean energy future.

Build Climate Resilience

Mitigation and adaptation are two sides of the same coin. While we must quickly mitigate emissions to ensure the impacts do not become even more severe, communities are already facing disruptions that are requiring them to adapt to climate change. A carbon plan that encourages customers to incorporate clean energy redundancy systems that will provide power to a home or business in emergency times, but also supply the grid in normal times, is a win-win for customers and the utility.

Identify and Drive Changes in State and Local Policies Necessary for Plan Execution

Decarbonizing the electric power sector in a least-cost manner will require changes to policies that govern both power supply and power demand. Recognizing that Duke Energy does not have authority over some of the limitations to reducing customer demand, the carbon plan should require a stakeholder feedback process with local governments, businesses, and citizens to inventory obstacles to decarbonization.

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