The largest U.S. power utility commits to a net-zero carbon emission target


New Duke Energy logo. (PRNewsFoto/Duke Energy)

Duke Energy, the largest U.S. power utility, announced a major commitment to address climate change by setting a target to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, with an interim target of 50 percent carbon emission reductions by 2030.

The company’s 2017 goal to reduce carbon emissions 40% by 2030 was one of the industry’s most ambitious at the time. The utility now says “sustained, low natural gas prices and declining costs for renewables and storage” have allowed the company to accelerate that goal.

The company will work with regulators and stakeholders in the states it serves and will outline proposed steps in the resource plans it files. Phasing out remaining coal generation will occur gradually and on different timelines in the states Duke Energy serves to protect customer rates and reliability.

How do they get there? Obviously solar and wind and storage, but natural gas got a big shout out as well:

We’re planning to at least double our portfolio of solar, wind and other renewables by 2025. We’ll continue deploying low-cost natural gas to speed the transition from coal and maintain reliability. New natural gas infrastructure will be required to fuel this transition and balance renewables. We’ll continue expanding energy storage, energy efficiency and electric vehicle infrastructure.”

Some other notes from the announcement:

Nuclear will play a role. “Our nuclear fleet’s nearly 11,000 megawatts of carbon-free generation in the Carolinas is central to our ability to meet these goals. That’s enough energy to serve 7 million homes.”

The grid will get an upgrade. “The company is investing in a multiyear effort to create a smarter and more resilient grid that can protect against extreme weather and cyber or physical attacks. These grid improvements also support adding more renewables, while avoiding outages and providing customers more control over their energy use.”

Following the announcement, As You Sow, a nonprofit that promotes environmental and social corporate responsibility, raised concerns about Duke’s reliance on natural gas.

“It is concerning as recent research from the Rocky Mountain Institute signals that by 2035 more than 90 percent of proposed combined-cycle gas plants would be uneconomic to run versus a clean energy portfolio, demonstrating risk of asset stranding.”

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