In 2002, a broad coalition of environmentalists, Duke Energy Carolinas, Duke Energy Progress and others came together and worked with Republicans and Democrats in the General Assembly to pass North Carolinas landmark Clean Smokestacks Act. It brought much more stringent air standards for coal power plants across the state and significantly reduced sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides emissions the main causes of acid rain and smog.
The legislation was stronger than federal standards and called for a five-year rate freeze for customers.
It kicked off a multibillion-dollar modernization program at Duke Energy Carolinas and Duke Energy Progress to retrofit, retire and replace many of the power plants in North Carolina. It also brought major improvement to our states air quality and overall environment.
Our two major electric utilities have made tremendous progress on improving the states environment over the past decade while keeping costs down for customers. Duke Energy is committed to increasing energy efficiency and renewable energy in North Carolina in the future.
Duke Energy is also committed to producing and delivering electricity in an environmentally responsible, cost efficient and reliable manner. Due to changing fuel prices, we also try to avoid relying too much on any single type of power plant or fuel.
Our relatively large industrial and commercial power demand in North Carolina requires us to build and maintain a mix of base load plants that operate most efficiently 24/7, as well as peaking plants that can quickly cycle on and off to meet customers power demand as it changes during the day.
Heres what Duke Energy has done and will continue to do to modernize our operations and improve the environment in North Carolina.
• Since 2010, our two North Carolina utilities have retired 24 older, less efficient coal units totaling more than 2,300 megawatts.
• By the end of 2013, we will have closed all coal units in North Carolina not equipped with advanced environmental emissions controls. These retirements will make Duke Energys remaining North Carolina coal plants among the most efficient and lowest emitting in the U.S.
• Duke Energy Carolinas projected sulfur dioxide emissions in 2014 are expected to be 96 percent less than in 2005. Nitrogen oxide emissions are expected to be 76 percent less.
• For Duke Energy Progress, sulfur dioxide emissions in 2014 are expected to be 81 percent less than in 2005, and nitrogen oxide emissions 86 percent less.
• Since 2011, Duke Energy has built five state-of-the-art natural gas plants to serve the Carolinas. These plants use low-cost natural gas and have significantly lower emissions than coal plants.
• To help address climate change concerns and to provide reliable base-load power in the future, we are preserving the option to add new nuclear plants in the Carolinas.
• As part of its modernization program, Duke Energy recently brought a new state-of-the-art advanced coal unit on line, but has no plans to build any more.
Over the next 15 years, Duke Energy Carolinas and Duke Energy Progress plan to meet more than 30 percent of the projected growth in customers electricity demand through energy efficiency, demand-side management and renewable energy. Thats the equivalent of three large natural gas power plants.
We remain on track to fully comply with North Carolinas state-mandated renewable energy requirements.
The company also has been working closely with some of our large business customers to develop a new Green Source Tariff that would allow us to deliver even more clean, renewable energy to the electric grid. The proposed tariff is designed for large business customers who want to offset some (or all) of their future electricity consumption with new sources of renewable energy.
A key to this new tariffs likely success: Those who want renewables pay for renewables. It would not raise the rates of customers not interested in renewable energy.
Duke Energy is generating electricity more cleanly and delivering it to customers more reliably, and efficiently, than ever before. And our rates remain well below the national average.
We are well-positioned to serve our North Carolina customers with an expanding array of energy efficiency and renewable energy initiatives. We will also continue to focus on keeping our costs low and serving our customers well.
Paul Newton is Duke Energy State President North Carolina