Duke Energy Targets Net-Zero Carbon Emissions By 2050

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Duke Energy has announced an updated climate strategy that includes a new goal of net-zero carbon emissions from electric generation by mid-century.

The company also plans to cut its carbon dioxide emissions by half or more from 2005 levels by 2030. This follows progress Duke Energy has already made in reducing carbon emissions 31% since 2005, the company says.

The company had a 2017 goal to reduce carbon emissions 40% by 2030, but since then, low natural gas prices and declining costs for renewables and storage have allowed for an accelerated goal, Duke Energy explains.

“We are making a cleaner energy future a reality for our customers and communities,” says Lynn Good, chairman, president and CEO. “A diverse mix of renewables, nuclear, natural gas, hydro and energy efficiency are all part of this vision, and we’ll take advantage of economical solutions to continue that progress. In the longer term, innovation and new technologies will be critical to a net-zero carbon future.”

Good adds, “Getting to net-zero carbon emissions, while ensuring energy remains reliable and affordable, will require new technologies. That’s the very reason we need to act now. We must continue leveraging today’s technologies while sustaining investment in innovation for this vision to become reality.”

The North Carolina-based energy company says these steps will “enable the appropriate balance between pace and cost, reliability and innovation”;

  • The steps and timeline for the transition will be unique in each state the company serves, so it will collaborate with regulators, customers and other stakeholders to determine the right path.
     
  • The company plans to at least double its portfolio of solar, wind and other renewables by 2025. It will continue deploying low-cost natural gas to speed the transition from coal and maintain reliability and will also continue expanding energy storage, energy efficiency and electric vehicle infrastructure.
     
  • Duke Energy will continue to operate its existing carbon-free technologies, including nuclear and renewables. The company has a nuclear fleet of nearly 11 GW in the Carolinas – enough energy to serve 7 million homes.
     
  • 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.
     
  • Duke Energy will advocate for sound public policy to advance technology and innovation. This includes advanced renewable energy, longer-lasting storage, new nuclear technologies, low- and zero-carbon fuels, and effective ways to capture carbon emissions. The company also will support permitting reforms that will enable new technologies to be deployed.

Duke Energy notes it has retired 49 coal-fired units, totaling 6,190 MW, since 2010. Phasing out remaining coal generation will occur on different timelines in the states Duke Energy serves in order to protect customer rates and reliability, the company says.

“Kudos to Duke Energy for its new plan to deploy more renewable power and accelerate its carbon reduction goals,” says Gregory Wetsone, president and CEO of the American Council on Renewable Energy. “This is an important step toward the transition to a carbon-free electricity grid, which is at the heart of any effective climate solution.”

“Over the past 12 months, we’ve witnessed rapid growth in the number of U.S. electric utilities making commitments to significant carbon-reduction goals,” adds Julia Hamm, president and CEO of the Smart Electric Power Alliance. “We congratulate Duke Energy for their announcement joining this group. As one of the nation’s largest utilities, their commitment will have a meaningful impact on efforts to achieve a carbon-free energy system.”

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