- A new poll from a conservative renewable advocacy group showed wide agreement on who should pay to clean up Duke Energy's coal ash ponds: more than 80% said the utility should pay those costs.
- While the broad ranging poll from Conservatives for Clean Energy shows some divisions, there is strong support for clean energy generally and 55% of respondents would like to see the state's renewable portfolio standard increased.
- A Duke spokesman, however, told the Triad Business Journal it had issues with the way the survey asked respondents about the coal ash cleanup. Duke intends to seek a rate increase to pay for cleanup costs that could exceed $5 billion over the next several years. The poll included 600 North Carolina voters and was conducted by Strategic Partners Solutions, a Republican campaign consulting firm.
North Carolina has been in the forefront of climbing renewable energy capacity, while its major utility Duke Energy faced controversy over its cleanup attempts after the 2014 Dan River coal ash spill. The conservative poll shows bipartisan support for renewable energy, as well as nearly overwhelming support against Duke charging ratepayers for costs associated with coal ash cleanup.
“While we have plenty of issues that divide our state, renewable energy isn’t one of them,” CCE President and CEO Mark Fleming said in a statement. “North Carolina voters see renewable energy as a tremendous opportunity for economic growth."
Almost three-quarters of North Carolinians support a 2007 law that set a 12.5% renewable goal, according to CCE. But a slimmer margin overall, about 55%, would support doubling it. Republicans would narrowly oppose the move, about 60% of Democrats and unaffiliated voters would support it, the survey found.
According to Fleming, the state already hosts 34,000 clean energy jobs and a $7 billion industry. But he also said other states in the region, like South Carolina, Georgia and Virginia, are "pursuing more aggressive clean
Among the survey findings: More than 83% of respondents said they would be more likely to back a lawmaker or candidate who supports pro-renewables policies.
Looking at more specific local issues, the state's residents appears to agree that Duke Energy should pay for the cleanup of coal ash ponds. The utility is expected to file a rate case in the second half of the year.
More than 80% said the utility should use its profits to pay for the cleanup, but a spokesman for Duke told Triad Business Journal that he had some issues with the way the questions were worded. For instance, one possible response to the coal ash issue included: "State regulators should allow Duke Energy a rate increase to our electric bills in order to fix their coal ash problem."
Perhaps unsurprisingly, only 2.8% agreed.
Last year, Duke developed a proposal to excavate 34 basins and cap another 18 basins in place as part of its efforts to protect drinking water from the waste. But the cost to clean it all up has been rising. A similar rate case is expected in South Carolina in 2018. In January, Duke said it wanted to defer recovery of more than $700 million in cleanup costs until it filed a new rate case later this year.