After a year-long investigation Environmental Working Group (EWG) named Duke Energy public energy enemy No. 1. The environmental advocacy organization cited Duke Energy’s efforts in multiple states to slow the growth of renewable energy as well as penalizing those customers who want to go solar and and its previous environmental record as reasons for the label.
“At a time when solar, wind and energy storage costs are plummeting, Duke is seeking to slow the transition to renewable sources,” said Grant Smith, EWG’s senior energy policy advisor and co-author of the report. “It wants to retain control of power generation and protect its own power plant investments against competition and cheaper alternatives.”
The utility and energy company is the among the nation’s largest investor-owned electric utilities. It operates in the Carolinas, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio, and owns energy projects in and out of its customer areas. Some states, like Florida and the Carolinas are moving to renewable energy quicker than others like Kentucky.
The report, written in collaboration with NC Warn, Ohio Citizen Action and Citizen Action Coalition of Indiana, found that coal power and nuclear power still provide roughly 70 percent of its electric generation. The report said it was much higher than the 50 percent average of coal generation for US utilities.
The utility has the most solar power in the southeast. With 4,208 megawatts of solar power operating, Duke Energy has the most solar energy among energy companies in the southeast, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy’s (SACE’s) latest Solar in the Southeast report recently found.
Still, EWG called Duke Energy’s investments in renewable energy “puny” and said it has a “master plan sharply at odds with America’s urgent need to turn away from outdated energy sources that fuel climate change and threaten public health.”
The organization also noted that Duke Energy has faced lawsuits from Environmental Protection Agency that have forced it to reduce its reliance on coal and is staking its future on natural gas power plants. The organization also noted that Duke Energy also is lobbying at the federal and state levels and spent more than $30 million to lobby the federal government between 2014 and 2018, an amount it said is higher than any other utility.
“Despite spending millions each year to buy political favor and greenwash its image, Duke’s corporate executives are driving the nation and the planet toward runaway climate chaos by expanding the use of fracked gas and impeding the growth of renewables and energy storage,” said Jim Warren, executive director of NC WARN, a nonprofit energy watchdog. “Duke’s influence spending is key to its monopoly business model of building outdated infrastructure and raising customer rates.”
The report also said Duke is undermining its customers’ ability to add in rooftop solar. It noted that the utility has more than doubled monthly charges on solar customers in its home state of North Carolina. But it also announced a new round of $62 million to finance solar incentives in the state last year.Tweet