Marking a notable shift in attitudes towards clean energy, a recent North Carolina law has required energy companies to cut 70% of carbon emissions by 2030 and to be carbon neutral by 2050. Under the new law, energy companies must work with the NC Utilities Commission to meet these goals. In response, Duke Energy, one of the largest energy companies in the state and the Appalachian region at-large, has proposed their “Carbon Plan” to work towards achieving these goals. Duke Energy claims that “affordability” is one of the core objectives of its Carbon Plan, but critics argue that a shift to renewable energy would do even more to enhance affordability for low-income customers.
Duke’s Carbon Plan, which calls for building new fossil-gas-fired power plants by 2030, primarily focuses on upgrading energy efficiency and traditional energy storage to reduce costs. Only one pathway contained in the company's proposal actually aims to meet the 2030 carbon-reduction target rather than pushing it further into the next decade. In response to this proposal, organizations such as Appalachian Voices and PSE Health Energy have argued that the “proposed fracked gas expansion would unnecessarily increase costs for customers, while cleaner, lower-cost options like solar, battery storage, and energy efficiency could completely offset the need to build new fracked gas infrastructure in the near term.” These organizations argue that, by replacing investments in costly generation sources with technology that lowers demand, Duke could meet the required carbon goals more quickly and cost-effectively while simultaneously saving low-income customers more. The NC Utilities Commission is required to approve a plan by December 31st. It will be interesting to see if Duke makes any changes to their proposal before any decision is made.