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Duke Energy’s net zero goal requires huge investment in renewables, energy storage and maintaning nuclear fleet

Utility giant Duke Energy is already halfway toward its goal of 16,000 MW in owned, operated and contracted renewable energy by 2025, the company announced in new climate and sustainability reports released Tuesday.

In addition, Duke said that the combination of clean energy and efficiency programs have reduced its carbon emissions 39 percent below 2005 levels. The utility’s goal is to cut 2005 carbon output levels in half by 2030.

Lynn Good

“Our commitment to ESG (environmental, social and governmental initiatives) has delivered strong results for our customers and our shareholders – and we’re focused on maintaining this level of performance and transparency as we work to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050,” said Lynn Good, Duke Energy’s chair, president and CEO. “These two reports showcase the significant progress we’ve made in these areas, and our plan to help address the challenges from climate change.”

Last year, Duke announced 1,500 MW of new renewable energy projects, detailed plans to renew licensing of its carbon-free nuclear fleet for another 20 years and completed gas-fired power projects to replace retiring coal-fired capacity. It also announced plans for extensive electric vehicle charging infrastructure and $600 million in energy storage investment over the next five years.

Duke’s generation portfolio, measured in net output of GWh, is 36 percent natural gas, 35 percent nuclear, 27 percent coal and 2 percent hydro and solar. The plant owned capacity is 42 percent gas-powered, 33 percent coal, 18 percent nuclear and 7 percent hydro and solar.

In the climate report, the utility laid out its plan for achieving net-zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2030. To reach that goal, Duke will need to grow its renewable and energy storage capacity significantly, utilize gas-fired capacity efficiency, keep the nuclear fleet going strong and retire more coal-fired plants.

The plan also requires low or zero carbon resources which can be dispatched quickly in load following scenarios. These zero emitting load following resources could make up 12 percent of the generation capacity by 2050, according to Duke.

Natural gas, which is lower priced and emits about half the CO2 of coal, will allow Duke to retire its remaining 16 GW of coal-fired capacity by 2050, according to the utility’s climate report.

To reach the net-zero goals without adding gas capacity, the report forecasts that Duke would need to install more than 15,000 MW of additional four-, six- and eight-hour battery storage in the next decade. This total would be more than 17 times the 899 MW in battery storage capacity currently installed in the U.S.

(Rod Walton is content director for Power Engineering and POWERGEN International. He can be reached at 918-831-9177 and [email protected]).