In the spring of 2022, Duke Energy submitted a Carbon Plan to help North Carolina achieve goals laid out in recently enacted laws to curb climate change. The plan ostensibly aims to achieve the state’s climate goals to curb carbon emissions.
Under this plan, however, low-wealth North Carolinians, who are disproportionately people of color, risk losing access to reliable, affordable electricity. Many may be left without the power needed to fuel their lives.
In response, the Center for Progressive Reform launched the Campaign for Energy Justice to ensure that North Carolina’s transition to a clean energy economy serves all North Carolinians, regardless of wealth or background. The campaign aims to address Duke Energy’s failure to prioritize both renewable energy and equity by reducing barriers to public participation. Ultimately, the campaign seeks to ensure that all North Carolinians have reliable access to affordable electricity as the state decarbonizes, including energy they generate on their own.
The campaign recently synthesized multiple reports analyzing Duke Energy’s Carbon Plan in a memo. The memo discusses conclusions from six reports produced by experts in issues related to equity, energy, and the environment (see Appendix A of the memo).
The memo aims to aid partners, allies, and community members as they draft and submit public comments about the plan and mount advocacy, legislative, and campaign efforts for a more equitable clean energy future.
A Deeply Flawed Plan
The memo finds that the Duke Energy Plan:
- Misses consumer energy efficiency opportunities
- Ignores low-income ratepayers
- Lacks low-cost renewable energy resources
- Worsens health issues
As summarized in the memo, Duke’s plan unnecessarily limits numerous low-cost, clean energy resources, including wind, solar battery storage, solar, and energy efficiency resources; ignores affordability concerns; and continues harmful emissions in communities.
The plan proposes to build new natural gas plants instead of adding more renewable energy resources to meet carbon reduction goals and keep up with energy demand. Building new gas, however, has outsized climate and health impacts from methane, which produces health-damaging air pollutants and ultimately increases respiratory illnesses in overburdened communities. Replacing coal with natural gas, then, is substituting one polluting resource with only a marginally better one.
Building new gas is also unnecessary for keeping up with consumer demand. Researchers found that energy efficiency resources lower total consumer demand for energy over time: The more energy efficient a home, the less energy is wasted and, consequently, used.
Investments in clean energy efficiency resources avoid the need for new natural gas and protect population and environmental health while saving customers and energy providers money. Adopting a clean energy plan grounded in energy efficiency will improve affordability, reduce air pollution, and reduce corresponding health impacts, especially among vulnerable populations.
The campaign opposes Duke Energy’s plan in its current iteration because it fails to equitably serve low-wealth people of color who disproportionately absorb the burden of high cost and highly polluting gas resources. Instead, the company should adopt a plan that relies more heavily on clean energy resources to more equitably serve low-wealth customers. To learn more about the campaign, please view our earlier post. You can learn how to submit public comments on Duke Energy’s plan here.