Monday numbers: Duke Energy’s carbon reduction plan still allows for methane emissions, major driver of climate change

Monday numbers: Duke Energy’s carbon reduction plan still allows for methane emissions, major driver of climate change

- in Environment, News, Top Story

Duke Energy’s proposed carbon reduction plan calls for steep cuts in carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas, but does not decrease other types of emissions that drive climate change, according to filings with the state Utilities Commission.

House Bill 951, now law, directed the state Utilities Commission to “take all reasonable steps” to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from Duke Energy: 70% from 2005 levels by the year 2030 and to achieve carbon neutrality by the year 2050.

But Duke Energy, which helped write the law, noted the legislation defines the scope of the reduction target as carbon dioxide emissions only, “not a broader definition of greenhouse gas emissions, which would include nitrous oxide, methane, etc.”

That loophole allows the utility to pursue natural gas, even though methane from the production and burning of that fuel source is a powerful greenhouse gas.

In its filing, Duke presented four “portfolios” to achieve carbon neutrality. However, instead of asking the Utilities Commission to okay one path, Duke wants approval of all four; that would give the utility leeway to meet the goals. The Utilities Commission is required to review the plan every two years.

Portfolio 1 targets achieving the 70% CO2 emissions reductions by 2030. It would require several changes:

  • 800 megawatts of offshore wind to service by December 2029
  • New solar interconnections ramping up to 1,800 megawatts per year by late 2028 — approximately 2.5 times the maximum amount interconnected in any previous year
  • The addition of nearly 1,800 megawatts of new battery energy storage capacity, paired with solar, up from only 13 megawatts in service today.
  • It would slightly accelerate the retirement of Roxboro Units 3-4, which burn coal.

Portfolio 2 would hit the 70% interim target by 2032. It includes more solar and battery storage, but a timeframe is not specified.

  • Two 800 MW blocks of offshore wind, the first in 2029 and the second in 2031
  • A slightly less aggressive pace of new solar and energy storage additions
  • Retire Roxboro Units 3-4  by 2032

Portfolio 3 would meet the 70% interim target  by 2034. It includes more solar and battery storage, but a timeframe is not specified.

  • No offshore wind
  • New, small nuclear unit in 2032
  • Roxboro Units 3-4 are retired by 2034

Portfolio 4: would also meet the 70% interim target by 2034, but is more expensive for ratepayers. It includes more solar and battery storage, but a timeframe is not specified.

  • 800 MW offshore wind and a small nuclear unit in early 2030s.
  • Roxboro Units 3-4 are retired by 2034

The Utilities Commission has scheduled six public hearings throughout North Carolina in July and August, two of them remote. Details of the hearings and the sign-up procedure are available here. The docket number is E 100 Sub 179.


76 million — Tons of carbon dioxide emitted by Duke Energy’s North Carolina power plants in 2005
14.9 million — Tons of CO2 emitted by the Roxboro plant in 2005, the largest amount among all of Duke’s North Carolina facilities
41 million — Tons of CO2 emitted by Duke Energy’s NC power plants in 2021
45.9% — CO2 reduction by Duke since 2005
23 million — Maximum tons of CO2 Duke Energy would be allowed to emit to reach the 70% reduction benchmark by 2030


13 — Number of Duke Energy facilities that reduced CO2 emissions, 2005-2021
6
— Number of facilities that increased CO2 emissions: Buck (Rowan County), Dan River and Rockingham (Rockingham County), H.F. Lee (Wayne County), Lincoln (Lincoln County), Richmond/Smith (Richmond County)*

*These units run on natural gas and/or oil

6 — Number of Duke Energy facilities that still use coal
10 — Number of solar facilities owned by Duke Energy
42 — Number of Duke Energy hydropower units*
5  — Number of nuclear power units*
2034 to 2046 — Years when the nuclear units’ licenses are scheduled to expire; Duke can apply to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a renewal.

*Multiple units can be located at the same facility


2.5% — Annual increase in energy costs to meet the 70% reduction benchmark by 2030, without incorporating a small nuclear reactor
$1,497 — Based on that rate increase, yearly amount that a Duke customer would pay in 2030, if their current annual electricity costs are $1,200
1.9% — Annual increase in energy costs to meet the 70% reduction by 2030, with a small nuclear reactor
$1,420 — Based on that rate increase, yearly amount that a Duke customer would pay in 2030, if their current annual electricity costs are $1,200


57,960 — Number of electric vehicles in North Carolina, 2022, in both Duke Energy Progress and Duke Energy Carolinas territory (includes part of South Carolina)
42,200 — Megawatts of electricity these vehicles consume by charging
765,265 — Estimated number of EVs, 2035
4.6 million — Estimated megawatts of electricity these vehicles will consume


2.7 degrees — Increase in average high temperature in Raleigh and Durham, 1970 to 2021
6 — Number of days in 2021 that had a high temperature of more than 95 degrees, Raleigh-Durham International Airport
1 — Number of days so far in 2022 that had a high temperature of more than 95 degrees, Raleigh-Durham International Airport (May 20)
40 — Estimated number of days per year in 2042 that will have a high temperature of at least 95 degrees, under a higher carbon emissions scenario
100 — Estimated number of days per year in 2099 that have a high temperature of at least 95 degrees, under a higher carbon emissions scenario

Sources: NC Utilities Commission filings by Duke Energy, Climate Central, Weather Underground, Durham County Health Department