- Duke Energy will include upstream carbon emissions from energy it purchases, as well as downstream emissions from customers, in its 2050 net-zero carbon goal, according to an announcement made Wednesday.
- The company has already reduced carbon emissions 44% from 2005 levels and is currently on track to fully eliminate coal from its generation fleet by 2035. The company plans to deploy 6,000 MW of new wind and solar energy by 2025 and 14,000 MW by 2030, Lynn Good, president and CEO of Duke Energy said during a Thursday earnings call.
- The announcement, which follows similar commitments from other top U.S. utilities to eliminate a broader range of emissions, "demonstrates a shift in industry ambition," Daniel Stewart, energy program manager for shareholder advocacy group As You Sow, said in a statement.
Duke Energy has found multiple climate milestones within its grasp, prompting a new level of ambition from the company's top executives.
Wednesday's announcement greatly expanded the scope of the company's net-zero emissions goals, adding indirect emissions created by its purchases and by its customers' use of its products — called Scope 2 and Scope 3 emissions — to the mix. For Duke's electric utilities, this will include emissions from the power it purchases and from the fossil fuels used for generation. For natural gas utilities, the new goals include upstream methane and carbon emissions from purchased gas, and downstream carbon emissions from customers' use.
Duke Energy is already on track to cut emissions in half by 2030, and has filed integrated resource plans that would enable it to completely eliminate coal generation by 2035. Duke Energy is now working to identify and quantify its Scope 3 emissions to determine priorities for the next set of goals, according to Wednesday's announcement.
The announcement drew praise from activist investors at As You Sow, who called the move "the sort of climate leadership investors want to see from the energy industry." But their approval came with some caveats.
"Investors are concerned that utilities are increasingly distracted by technologies with limited climate and cost-effectiveness, such as renewable natural gas and hydrogen," Stewart said in a statement. "We would like to see increasing efforts to support the opportunity that building electrification offers to economically and fully reduce greenhouse gas emissions."
Steve Young, Duke Energy executive vice president and CFO, told investors on Thursday that Duke Energy has launched a hydrogen pilot program in the past year on the belief that the company's gas-fired power plants could one day be adapted to utilize the emerging technology. Company leaders also expressed interest in advanced nuclear, and carbon capture and storage.
"We believe we have runway with existing technologies to achieve the majority of our aspirations around clean energy transition over the next five years or so," Good said. "And so you're getting into the 2030s when those technologies would be more important to get to net zero and the next tranche of carbon reduction."
Meanwhile, Young said, Duke Energy plans to own operate or purchase 24 GW of wind and solar energy by 2030 up from the current 10 GW — although supply chain constraints have begun to delay some of the more immediately planned projects. Young estimated that some 400-500 MW of solar projects will have to be postponed to 2023.
Although Good said Duke Energy expects to be able to absorb most supply chain and inflation-related concerns, she said some of the company's suppliers have indicated they will be unable to procure solar panels in time to complete some 2022 projects.
"As a result of that, you then begin looking for alternatives, and those alternatives can be more expensive," Good said. "So we have made a decision to push some of our projects into ‘23."