Duke Energy aims to bring 16GW of solar, wind, biomass online by 2025

Source: By Darren Sweeney, Platts Global • Posted: Tuesday, April 28, 2020

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Duke Energy’s 60-MW Monroe Solar Facility in Union County, N.C. The company has set its sights on bringing a total of 16,000 MW of solar, wind and biomass generation online by 2025.
Source: S&P Global Market Intelligence

Duke Energy Corp. plans to double the amount of solar, wind and biomass generation in its portfolio over the next five years as the company continues to reduce carbon emissions.

On April 28, Duke Energy released its 2019 sustainability report and 2020 climate report in which it outlines significant growth in renewable energy and further reductions in greenhouse gases as part of the company’s plan to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Duke Energy said its generation fleet emitted about 93 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2019, a reduction of 39% compared to 2005 levels and an 8% drop from 2018.

In September 2019, Duke Energy announced an updated goal to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by at least 50% compared to 2005 baseline levels in 2030 and attain net-zero emissions by 2050.

While Duke Energy has met its goal of “owning, operating and contracting” 8,000 MW of solar, wind and biomass throughout the U.S. by 2020, the company has set its sights on bringing a total of 16,000 MW of renewable energy online by 2025.

“Growing our renewable portfolio by 8,000 [MW] in five years will not be easy. But our regulated and commercial teams are laser-focused on making it happen,” Rob Caldwell, president of Duke Energy Renewables Inc., said in a written statement.

Duke Energy “owns and purchases around 57,000 MW of total energy capacity now,” Duke Energy spokesman Randy Wheeless said in an email. “So we’re about 14% renewable now.”

Duke Energy’s renewable portfolio, as of year-end 2019, included 2,500 MW of company-owned wind and 1,500 MW of company-owned solar with 4,100 MW of purchased power, primarily solar, according to Wheeless.

In its sustainability report, Duke Energy said it also plans to spend about $600 million to add 400 MW of battery storage “over the next five to 10 years.”

Duke Energy also plans to increase the capacity at its Bad Creek Pumped Storage Project in South Carolina by about 320 MW.

In addition to adding renewable energy, Duke Energy in September 2019 announced plans to seek a second 20-year renewal of the operating licenses for 11 nuclear reactors in the Carolinas beginning with the 2,554-MW Oconee nuclear plant in 2021.

“Nuclear power remains Duke Energy’s largest greenhouse gas emissions-free generator,” the company wrote in its sustainability report.

Duke Energy’s 2030 estimated generation mix is expected to consist of 41% natural gas, 28% nuclear, 19% hydro/wind/solar and 12% coal/oil. In 2019, Duke Energy’s generation mix consisted of 35% natural gas, 34% nuclear, 26% coal/oil and 5% hydro, wind and solar.

“Deploying low-cost natural gas helps speed the transition away from coal, maintain reliability and balance the intermittent nature of renewables,” the company wrote.

Duke Energy, meanwhile, has retired 6,539 MW of coal capacity since 2010 and plans to retire 862 MW of additional coal capacity by 2024. This includes units 4 and 5 at the 1,130-MW G.G. Allen coal plant in Gaston County, N.C., and the 280-MW R. Gallagher coal plant in Floyd County, Ind.

This would bring Duke Energy’s total coal retirements to 7,401 MW by 2024 “or roughly one-third of our former coal portfolio.”

The company also has more than 7,000 MW of coal capacity tied to proposed accelerated depreciation.

On the coal ash front, Duke Energy said it “safely moved 4.5 million tons of coal ash” in 2019 with 23.5 million tons of coal combustion residuals removed from high-priority sites in North Carolina and stored in state-approved facilities.

Duke Energy on Jan. 2 announced it reached an agreement with the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality and groups represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center on closing the company’s remaining ash ponds in the state, primarily by excavation.

The decision to excavate the vast majority of basins follows several largely unsuccessful challenges to an April 2019 DEQ order under which Duke Energy warned full excavation “would take decades” and add about $4 billion to $5 billion to the current $5.6 billion estimate for ash management in the Carolinas. Under the agreement, Duke Energy will excavate seven of nine coal ash impoundments subject to the order, or nearly 80 million tons of coal ash.

“This reasonable, common-sense approach protects people and the environment while keeping costs in check as much as possible, saving approximately $1.5 billion when compared to the full excavation order that state regulators issued on April 1, 2019,” Duke Energy wrote in its sustainability report.