Duke, one of the largest U.S. emitters of greenhouse gases, plans to shift away from burning coal and invest in solar, nuclear and other carbon-free technologies, as well as natural gas, during the transition, according to a statement Tuesday.
A growing list of utilities and other power producers is pursuing the goal of cutting back on fossil fuels, in line with the pledges made in the Paris Climate Accord. Taking into account the latest announcement, utilities now providing about a third of U.S. electricity have promised to phase out carbon, said Armond Cohen, executive director of Clean Air Task Force.
Getting there will require breakthroughs in new energy technologies, said Lynn Good, chief executive officer of Charlotte, North Carolina-based Duke Energy.
“In the longer-term, innovation and new technologies will be critical to a net-zero carbon future,” Good said in the statement.
While some environmental groups praised Duke’s commitment, others pointed to the company’s continued use of coal and investments in natural-gas plants and pipelines.
“Unfortunately, according to Duke’s most recent long-term plans filed across their territories, they expect to burn coal until 2048 and build a massive amount of new gas capacity,” Dave Rogers, a regional campaign director for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, said in a statement. “Both of those commitments are totally incompatible with a clean energy future that avoids the worst impacts of climate change.”
Many states including California, New York and New Jersey have set goals for cutting emissions significantly by 2050, and many utilities are making plans to advance those goals. They include National Grid Plc, American Electric Power Co. and Edison International.
Those technologies include long-lasting battery storage, advanced modular nuclear reactors and carbon capture, said Diane Denton, vice president of state energy policy for Duke.
“Energy storage plays a key role,” Denton said in an interview.
(Michael R. Bloomberg, the founder and majority stakeholder of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News, has committed $500 million to launch Beyond Carbon, a campaign aimed at closing the remaining coal-powered plants in the U.S. by 2030 and slowing the construction of new gas plants.)