October 14, 2021

Duke Energy applauds new North Carolina energy law

Duke Energy, North Carolina’s dominant utility, on Wednesday commended state Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper for signing into law a landmark, bipartisan energy bill that aims to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the state’s power plants by 2030, a process that the Charlotte-based power company also will be involved in.

“We thank Governor Cooper and Senate and House leaders for passing this landmark legislation with broad bipartisan support, creating a framework to reach some of the most aggressive carbon reduction goals in the country while maintaining least-cost and reliability requirements to protect customers,” said Stephen De May, Duke Energy’s North Carolina president, in a statement. “We look forward to implementing this new policy for the benefit of all North Carolinians.”

The enacted consensus measure on House Bill (HB) 951 requires the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC) to develop a plan by the end of 2022 that follows “the least-cost path” in reducing carbon emissions 70 percent by 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, according to the text of the law.

The plan will be developed by NCUC with input from public electric utilities and stakeholders for how the utilities will achieve the authorized reduction goals, “which may, at a minimum, consider power generation, transmission and distribution, grid modernization, storage, energy efficiency measures, demand-side management, and the latest technological breakthroughs to achieve the least-cost path,” the text says.

The plan will be reviewed every two years to allow for improving and emerging technologies, and it requires NCUC to consider affordability and reliability when deciding how Duke Energy achieves the plan’s goals.

“This is a new beginning,” Cooper said during the Oct. 13 Executive Mansion ceremony held with legislators from both parties. “Putting real and enforceable carbon reduction targets into the law, North Carolina is working to reduce the effect of climate change on marginalized populations, while putting our state at the forefront of the clean energy economy and the jobs that it brings.”

While Duke Energy spokesman Bill Norton told Daily Energy Insider that “it would be premature to forecast bill impacts for a plan they have not yet started,” the carbon emissions reduction plan requires public utilities like Duke to use securitization at 50 percent to retire coal-fired power plants, and permits Duke Energy to seek multi-year rate increases and performance-based earnings incentives from the NCUC to help cover its costs.

“This bipartisan agreement sets a clean energy course for North Carolina’s future that is better for the economy, better for the environment, and better for the pocketbooks of everyday North Carolinians,” Cooper said earlier this month. “I am encouraged that we have been able to reach across the aisle to find a way forward that will update our energy systems while saving people money and doing our part to slow climate change.”

North Carolina state leaders reached agreement on revisions to HB 951 almost two weeks ago. The House voted 90-20 on Thursday to pass the revised bill after the Senate voted 42-7 on Wednesday to approve it.

“Last week’s bipartisan votes signal another important milestone for North Carolina’s clean energy transformation,” Norton said. “We thank House and Senate leaders and the Governor for their leadership on this legislation.”

Among several provisions, the new law also requires 45 percent of solar power to come from a competitive bidding process among Independent Power Producers and 55 percent from public utilities, which will help reduce costs and encourage innovation, according to the governor’s office.

“We have a responsibility to be good stewards of our natural resources while also maintaining low costs for citizens and businesses, and this bill achieves each of those goals,” said N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore, a Republican. “It is absolutely crucial for our state and for our national security that we prioritize energy independence now.”

Duke Energy for several months worked with lawmakers and others to help craft HB 951, which was sponsored in May by state Republican Reps. Dean Arp and John Szoka.

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