Duke Energy says it set a record this summer for use of natural gas as the company uses less coal, its preferred fossil fuel for decades.
Duke’s power plants in the Carolinas burned a record 26.7 billion cubic feet of gas in June. Air conditioners ran hard that month, when temperatures in Charlotte hit 100 degrees on five days.
The record is part of a nationwide shift toward natural gas in recent years as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, opened untapped deposits and prices plunged.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported that, for the first time, electricity generated by gas surpassed coal-fired generation in April. Duke hit the same benchmark in the Carolinas that month.
Duke has been retiring coal-fired power plants for about five years rather than install new air pollution controls. Natural gas produces fewer emissions than coal, and falling gas prices helped accelerate the move.
In 2005, coal generated 53 percent of Duke’s electricity in the Carolinas and natural gas 5 percent. By 2014, coal had dropped to 33 percent as gas rose to 18 percent.