Research Report

Energy Crossroads

posted on in Energy & Environment

North Carolina’s Clean Energy Plan, a proposal put together by the Department of Environmental Quality at the behest of Governor Roy Cooper, calls for a 70-percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from electricity by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2050. Duke Energy has submitted Integrated Resource Plans that include pathways to the Clean Energy Plan targets. Duke Energy’s Portfolio D most resembles the Clean Energy Plan, deploying wind, solar, and battery storage on an unprecedented scale.

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This report assesses North Carolina’s existing electricity portfolio, analyzes the changes proposed by Duke Energy’s Portfolio D, and compares that scenario to alternatives that utilize nuclear energy and natural gas to achieve emissions reduction rather than the Clean Energy Plan’s preferred wind, solar, and battery storage.

The report finds:

  • North Carolina has an exemplary record on emissions reduction, driven by its robust electricity generation from nuclear energy and its recent shift to natural gas.
  • The Clean Energy Plan is an expensive, wasteful, and risky means of achieving the state’s emissions goal, as demonstrated by Duke Energy’s cost estimates and by future grid scenario modeling from the Center of the American Experiment.
  • Duke Energy would require over $100 billion in present-value revenue to realize the demands of the Clean Energy Plan with Portfolio D.
  • Duke Energy’s Portfolio D would increase electric bills for North Carolina households by more than $400 each year. North Carolina’s industrial electricity customers would face increases of close to $50,000 each year in the scenario, compounding costs for all North Carolinians.
  • Achieving the Clean Energy Plan’s 2030 emissions goal with Duke Energy’s Portfolio D would come at a cost of over $110 per metric ton of reduced carbon dioxide.
  • An alternative scenario expanding natural gas’s role on the grid would reduce emissions more than 60 percent by 2030 at a cost of just $2.86 per metric ton.
  • A scenario expanding nuclear energy’s role on the grid using U.S. Energy Information Administration cost assumptions would reduce emissions 70 percent, achieving the Clean Energy Plan target at $79.23 per metric ton, a rate close to 30-percent more affordable than Duke Energy’s Portfolio D.
  • A scenario deploying a Korean-developed nuclear reactor now in use internationally would reduce emissions 70 percent by 2030 at $39.98 per metric ton, roughly one-third the rate of Duke Energy’s Portfolio D.
  • Nuclear energy and natural gas are both efficient uses of land, requiring just 0.5 square miles and 2 square miles, respectively, in order to average 1,000 megawatts over the course of a year in North Carolina, compared to 575 square miles for onshore wind power, 265 square miles for offshore wind, and 60 square miles for solar power to provide the same amount of electricity.
  • The Clean Energy Plan’s reliance on wind, solar, and battery storage entails significant environmental, supply chain, and land-use risks.
  • Expanded utilization of nuclear energy and natural gas would provide better pathways to emissions reduction than the wind, solar, and battery storage scenarios preferred by Governor Cooper and the Department of Environmental Quality.
Jordan McGillis is deputy director of policy at the Institute for Energy Research. He is the author of the 2019 IER white paper “The Case Against a Carbon Tax” and the 2018 IER white paper “The Solar Value Cliff.” McGillis… ...

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