North Carolina Carbon Plan risks missing carbon reduction goal and continues reliance on dirty fossil fuel

December 31, 2022
Contact: Amy Rawe, SACE, 865-235-1448, [email protected]; Kathleen Sullivan, SELC, 919-945-7106, [email protected]

CHAPEL HILL, N.C.— Clean energy groups, including SACE, involved in the North Carolina Utilities Commission proceeding to develop a state plan to reduce heat-trapping carbon emissions from electricity generation – known as the Carbon Plan – said the plan released December 30 by the commission risks missing the bipartisan legislative mandate of 70% emissions reductions from the power sector by 2030. The Commission’s plan also allows Duke to plan to rely on new polluting, costly gas instead of putting North Carolina on a “no regrets” path focused on clean energy. Gas has proven to be a main driver of recent increases to our electric bills as the cost of that volatile commodity is passed directly to customers.

Seventy percent reduction of carbon pollution by 2030 is achievable for North Carolina while meeting its energy needs according to experts through increased investments in bill-saving energy efficiency and more renewable energy, such as solar and wind energy. The coalition of clean energy groups—the Natural Resources Defense Council, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, and the Sierra Club, represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center, jointly with the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association filed an expert’s plan at the commission that would reach the carbon mandates on time and at lower cost than Duke Energy’s own proposed plans.

In contrast, three of the four portfolios originally proposed by Duke Energy planned do not to meet the 2030 carbon pollution reduction deadline and all additional portfolios that Duke prepared in cooperation with the Public Staff also planned not to meet the 2030 deadline. While the Commission correctly decided not to decide now to extend the 2030 compliance requirement, it adopted the near-term actions proposed by Duke, which are based almost entirely on plans that miss that deadline.

Expert analysis showed that North Carolina does not need to rely on speculative new technologies or the addition of any new fossil infrastructure, including any new gas. To the contrary, the Inflation Reduction Act recently signed into law by President Biden will significantly reduce the cost of zero-emission resources like wind and solar, resulting in dramatic expansion of those resources and reduction in power-sector emissions. The implications for the 2022 Carbon Plan are clear:  with the price of clean energy poised to drop even further, going clean is the smarter plan. Fossil fuel-burning resources will become even more expensive relative to clean energy sources and will need to be retired early, at even greater cost.

“North Carolina can meet state carbon-reduction goals on time and in a cleaner and more affordable way than suggested by Duke Energy and endorsed by the Commission. Expert modeling shows a no-regrets pathway that would have better fostered the growth of our clean energy economy and created a healthier environment for North Carolinians,” said David Neal, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center which represents the Natural Resources Defense Council, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, and the Sierra Club. “Relying more on low-cost renewable energy and treating energy efficiency as a priority resource would have positioned North Carolina to take full advantage of the cost-savings made possible by the Inflation Reduction Act and continue to make our grid stronger and more reliable, all while costing less on customer bills than Duke’s proposals.”

“From the beginning, our team, along with our partners at the Southern Environmental Law Center, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, and Sierra Club, have advocated for a carbon plan that meets the intent of House Bill 951 to reduce electricity-related emissions by 70% by 2030 in a cost-effective manner for ratepayers,” said Taylor Jones, regulatory counsel, NC Sustainable Energy Association. “We hope this order does just that, while improving resiliency and creating new economic opportunities for North Carolinians. Over the coming days and weeks, our team will evaluate the order to determine how it will impact electricity generation in NC for decades to come.”