Local & State Voices

Duke Energy NC president: Climate and the case for natural gas

Duke Energy NC president: Natural gas has a role in our energy future.
Duke Energy NC president: Natural gas has a role in our energy future.

North Carolina citizens want and deserve a cleaner energy future, and our goal is to deliver it for them.

In September, Duke Energy made a significant announcement to address climate change. We announced an updated goal of net-zero carbon emissions from electric generation by mid-century and an interim target of cutting carbon emissions by at least half from 2005 levels by 2030. We’re committed to achieving these targets, but that will require everyone to have a firm grasp on the reliability and affordability implications of the journey to a carbon-neutral future.

Together with stakeholders and policymakers, Duke Energy has already made strong progress. We have connected more than 3,000 megawatts of solar – making North Carolina second only to California in installed solar – and expect to more than double this by 2025. This solar capacity, combined with cleaner and more efficient natural gas generation, allowed the company to retire 26 coal units and reduce carbon emissions 34% in North Carolina. Our North Carolina utilities are first and second in the Southeast for energy efficiency program performance, and today 50% of the energy we produce for North Carolinians is carbon-free.

We can all be proud of where the state is today, and we can all agree on the vision of a carbon-free future. Ultimately, we must also agree on the path forward. Collaboration, constructive public policy discussion and honest fact-finding will be critical to reach these carbon goals. Given our responsibility to deliver reliable and affordable electricity to North Carolina, we have identified several facts to achieving a net-zero carbon profile by 2050.

First, we must continue to operate our existing carbon-free technologies, including nuclear and solar. Our nuclear fleet in the Carolinas produces enough energy to serve 7 million homes and businesses and is a critical piece of the puzzle.

Second, we must continue to deploy low-cost natural gas to speed the transition away from coal while maintaining reliability. Some reject the use of natural gas, arguing that Duke Energy should immediately forsake natural gas in favor of renewables alone. It’s not that simple. A reliable electric system needs generation resources that can be dispatched at any time, day or night. The intermittency of renewable energy simply cannot provide that kind of reliability until storage becomes longer lasting and less expensive. The flexibility of natural gas allows us to connect more renewables to our system, and its affordability ensures equity and more stable costs for North Carolina families.

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is an important infrastructure project that will provide North Carolina with a reliable source of natural gas to enable the state’s transition to a carbon-free future.

Third, North Carolina’s energy future must be built upon a modern electric grid that is more resilient, better protected from physical and cyber threats, and supports increasing renewables. Duke Energy has worked with diverse groups to develop a grid improvement plan that will deliver these benefits, and we are making those investments today.

Finally, a carbon-free future is not possible without major commitments to energy storage technology, energy efficiency measures and electric vehicle infrastructure. Duke Energy is taking actions to grow battery storage and EV infrastructure in the Carolinas.

Gov. Roy Cooper and the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality recently developed and released a Clean Energy Plan. We applaud the governor’s leadership on this important policy directive, and we believe that Duke Energy’s climate goal is consistent. We will work with our state’s leaders and policymakers, bringing our unique expertise to the table and protecting the reliability and affordability of electric power that has made North Carolina a strong economic engine and a great place to live.

Stephen De May is Duke Energy’s North Carolina president.
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