Report card criticizes proposed fossil gas buildout, lack of equity considerations
Duke Energy, the investor-owned utility that serves more than 3.5 million North Carolina residents, filed its draft plan this May, in compliance with a mandate by the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC). The final carbon plan will serve as the state’s roadmap for reducing carbon dioxide emissions to 70% below 2005 levels by 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.
Duke’s carbon plan received failing grades in eight of 12 criteria, including setting an ambitious timeline for coal plant closure and reducing reliance on fossil fuels. In its plan, the company proposes extending the life of multiple coal-fired power plants and making additional investments in fossil gas. “Coal and fracked gas aren’t only uneconomic and risky to ratepayers’ wallets – they’re harmful to our climate and to the health and well-being of our communities,” says Mikaela Curry, senior representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign in the Carolinas. “Prioritizing expensive and polluting energy sources at the expense of clean, renewable ones is, frankly, unacceptable.”
The report card also criticizes Duke’s failure to consider bill affordability and environmental justice. The coalition points out that communities located near polluting power plants face greater economic and health burdens, and argues that “the carbon plan should be designed with significant input from the communities who have been harmed most by an energy system run on fossil fuels: communities with higher percentages of people of color and low-to-moderate income households.” In contrast, Duke’s Environmental Justice stakeholder process consisted of a single meeting, with only a handful of utility-selected stakeholders in attendance.
The People Power NC coalition graded Duke’s proposal against the 12 Principles for a Carbon Plan in the Public Interest, which they released earlier this year. “Our goal in developing these principles was to show what an equitable, people-centered carbon plan could look like,” says Lindsey Hallock, Southeast Senior Regional Director at Vote Solar. “When it comes to achieving our emissions goals, process and intentionality matter. It’s unfortunate that Duke’s draft plan doesn’t incorporate feedback from communities who have the most to gain from a just carbon plan.”
People Power NC continues to make the case that the state’s final carbon plan must be the responsibility of the NCUC, not Duke Energy. “House Bill 951 makes clear that the carbon plan rests firmly on the shoulders of the Utilities Commission,” says Cathy Buckley, Director of Statewide Organizing with North Carolina’s Alliance to Protect our People and the Places We Live. “Duke may have chosen to prioritize the status quo, but the NCUC still has the opportunity — and the obligation — to develop a carbon plan that serves the best interests of Carolina communities.”
The NCUC has scheduled six public hearings this summer, with a final carbon plan due to be released by the end of the year. On Wednesday, June 22 at 6 p.m., the People Power Coalition will host a training webinar for members of the public interested in advocating for a modern and fossil-free energy system for North Carolina. Press are invited to attend.