US utility Duke Energy has announced an extensive expansion of its clean energy and emissions reduction plans to significantly increase the company’s carbon and methane reductions, coal plant retirements and renewable energy generation goals. The sweeping plans were announced at the company’s inaugural environmental, social and governance (ESG) day. The virtual investor event featured Duke Energy’s senior executives who detailed the company’s ESG initiatives and unveiled new programs aimed at enhancing the company’s long-term commitment to delivering clean energy to the communities that it serves.

“We are enthusiastic about the prospect of scaling up our clean energy efforts, driving economic growth in our states and growing our business as we collaborate with stakeholders to develop smart energy policy and solutions for the future,” said Duke Energy chair, president and CEO Lynn Good. “Our confidence in these new commitments is grounded in Duke Energy’s strong record of results.”

The announcement comes a month after Duke filed its integrated resource plan for the Carolinas, detailing six potential resource portfolios for the next 15 years. The base scenario – which includes no carbon policy drivers – projects total solar capacity of 8,650 MW by 2035, while the three most ambitious models in terms of solar development reveal the utility could own a solar portfolio in excess of 16 GW by that date.

As the company executes and continues to evaluate the five-year plan announced in early 2020, the long-term opportunities and capital investment needs are becoming clearer, allowing management to provide a longer, 10-year capital investment vision that aligns with cleaner energy commitments. This capital plan will enable Duke Energy to:

  • Double its enterprise-wide renewable portfolio from 8 GW to 16 GW by 2025, at least triple renewable capacity for its regulated utilities by 2030, and bring its regulated renewable capacity total to 40 GW by 2050;
  • Add more than 11,000 MW of energy storage across Duke’s system by 2050 and continue to invest and advocate for emerging technologies;
  • Accelerate the amount of coal plants it plans to retire, adding to the 50 coal units, which total more than 6,500 MW, retired since 2010; and
  • Retire all coal-only units by 2030 in the Carolinas.

These actions reinforce Duke Energy’s progress to date and focus on building a smarter, cleaner energy future across the Carolinas, Midwest and Florida.

REGlobal’s Views: Duke’s solar expansion plans are part of a wider trend among US utilities that are decarbonising their power supplies thanks to the cost declines of renewables and state policies that require targets to be met. Recent months have seen utilities such CenterPoint Energy, Ameren and Vistra announce gigawatts of additional renewables capacity. With solar PV and onshore wind found to be the cheapest sources of new-build generation, the economic case for green energy has become undeniable.