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AG Josh Stein says regulators should not adopt Duke Energy's carbon plan as is

Solar farm in Cabarrus County, N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein says Duke Energy's carbon plan fails to consider incentives in recent federal legislation that will speed up adoption of solar energy.
David Boraks
Solar farm in Cabarrus County, NC. Attorney General Josh Stein says Duke Energy's carbon plan fails to consider incentives in recent federal legislation that will speed up the adoption of solar energy.

NC Attorney General Josh Stein says state regulators should reject Duke Energy's proposals for reducing carbon from energy generation and instead, adopt a plan that meets the state's clean energy goals and costs less.

Stein's office has filed testimony on Duke's plans ahead of expert-witness hearings that begin next week. The attorney general said Duke's plan is too aggressive in building more natural-gas-fired power plants. Stein said it fails to take into account financial incentives in the federal climate and health care law designed to speed the adoption of clean energy.

"We have an opportunity to create a plan that is not only better at reducing carbon emissions, and therefore better for the climate, but it's actually cheaper for ratepayers," Stein said Wednesday.

State law requires Duke to reduce carbon emissions that cause climate change by 70% from 2005 levels by 2030 and to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. But most of Duke's proposals don't meet the 2030 goal — the law allows for a 2-year delay.

Stein said it's too early for regulators to grant the delay.

"The law does allow the Utilities Commission to have a two-year extension if there's issues around reliability or issues about cost. But you're not supposed to add the two years in 2022, at the beginning. What we need to do is develop a plan that meets the goal of 2030," he said.

Stein wants regulators to adopt an alternative plan developed by a consultant for his office that he said meets the goals and keeps down rates.

California-based Stratagen Consulting developed the attorney general's plan. Stein's office submitted testimony by consultant Edward Burgess about Duke's plan and the alternative he developed. In the testimony, Burgess says that he used the same software as Duke but changed some of the utility's assumptions. Among other things, it calls for solar energy, onshore wind and battery storage as "near-term additions." And Burgess says it "avoids a 'rush to judgment' on the need for new gas units in light of uncertainties around fuel supply and competitiveness under the IRA (Inflation Reduction Act)."

Expert witness hearings on the carbon plan begin next Tuesday and could last for weeks. Regulators must adopt a plan by year's end.

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Corrected: September 8, 2022 at 10:00 AM EDT
This article has been updated to correct that state law requires a 70% cut in carbon emissions by 2030, not a 50% cut.
David Boraks previously covered climate change and the environment for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.