- Duke Energy has reached an agreement with North Carolina stakeholders, scaling back the scope of its Power/Forward Carolinas grid modernization initiative and cutting out two thirds of the utility's planned expenditures in an initial 3-year pilot phase. But the agreement does not limit the longer-term scope of future investments under the initiative.
- Duke and environmental groups filed the settlement June 1. The utility will spend $2.5 billion over four years, including $25 million on electric vehicle charging — a steep cut from the $7.8 billion it had proposed with the North Carolina Utilities Commission.
- As part of its plans, Duke agreed to deploy at least 300 MW of total energy storage projects on its system in North Carolina by May 2026. Two-thirds of that capacity is expected online in 2023.
When Duke first announced the Power/Forward initiative in April, 2017, it drew concern from a variety of groups. Vote Solar opposed the plan, calling it a "play to sink customer funds into unsubstantiated investments to the sole benefit of shareholders."
Last week, the utility and environmental groups filed a settlement with the North Carolina Utilities Commission that would authorize $2.5 billion in spending. Parties to the agreement include Duke, Environmental Defense Fund, North Carolina Sustainable Energy Foundation and Sierra Club.
Commenting on the $5.3 billion price reduction from Duke's initial proposal, EDF said the spending for the three-year pilot program "will be more targeted, focusing on new integrated technologies."
The agreement includes grid modernization, battery storage, data access and vehicle electrification components, which the groups say will result in substantial environmental benefits. Voltage optimization upgrades alone, advocates say, could reduce emissions equivalent to taking approximately 30,000 cars off the road.
EDF's Southeast Director Dionne Delli-Gatti said Duke's "unprecedented investment in a grid modernization program will put North Carolina on a path toward a clean energy future."
The proposal must still be approved by North Carolina regulators, but supporters say it will improve grid efficiency, lower emissions and give customers more control over their demand.
While the settlement does change Duke Energy's grid improvements that would be allowed under the grid rider, company spokesman Jeff Brooks clarified that the agreement does not limit the scope or scale of future investments that can be made under the Power/Forward Carolinas plan.
While it was not a party to the settlement, VoteSolar urged Duke to be more transparent and inclusive as it launches similar programs in South Carolina, Florida and elsewhere.