“We’re in a unique position in the power industry to deploy the solutions [to climate change], to raise the capital and not raise the national debt, to do it at scale, and to do it in ‘China time.’” - Duke Energy CEO, Jim Rogers
Sadly, the company’s reality doesn't match its rhetoric. Duke is building two giant new coal-fired power plants and plans to build new nuclear power plants.
They continue to do business with coal companies like Alpha Natural Resources (formerly Massey Energy) who are blowing the tops off of pristine mountains in Appalachia. And they’re spending a tiny fraction of the billions they make from rate-payers on renewable energy sources like wind and solar.
The Pathway to Clean Energy
So Greenpeace enlisted Ventyx, a well-known and respected provider of data and analysis related to the electricity sector, to model the rate and environmental impact of a cleaner alternative to Duke Energy’s existing Integrated Resource Plans (IRPs).
Such plans or IRPs set the course for utility planning and offer a glimpse into major construction, retirements and improvements that will shape the future of energy supply and delivery. Since Duke Energy has yet to issue an IRP as a combined company (Duke recently merged with competitor Progress Energy to become the largest utility in the country), Duke’s 2010 IRP and Progress’s 2011 IRP were analyzed.
These plans were weighed in the context of the Southeastern region consisting of the Carolinas, Virginia and West Virginia, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, Nebraska over the next 20 years. The model ran various fuel price, wholesale power price, supply, demand (load forecasts) and emissions assumptions across the region, based on existing and planned generation by fuel type. The model also incorporated two-way power flow constraints.
Duke Energy customers in the Carolinas could save $108 billion, or 57% of their total bills, over the next 20 years by choosing solar and wind energy. This stands in contrast to what Jim Rogers characterized as a ‘tsunami of capital expenditures’ related to the construction of new gas-fired and nuclear power generation.
The savings are achieved by using energy efficiency to its fullest degree and sourcing 33% of Duke Energy’s power from renewable energy by 2020, while weaning Duke Energy from coal by 2020 and nuclear energy by 2026.
Switching from nuclear and simple cycle gas turbines to more cost-effective investments in wind and solar, Duke Energy can sharply reduce fuel, construction and long-term debt costs to rate-payers while also sharply reducing power plant emissions.