Examining the Barriers to Sustainable Power at Duke Energy: The Non-Profit vs. Corporate Perspectives
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Electric utilities throughout the United States are under increasing pressure by the government, the public and environmental groups to make the transition to clean power as urgency over the need to address climate change grows. The Southeast will be particularly hard-pressed to find substitutes for its numerous coal plants even as its nuclear options face strong public opposition. A perfect example of this struggle is embodied in the positions held by the North Carolina Waste Awareness Reduction Network (NC WARN), a non-profit environmental group located in the Durham area, and Duke Energy, a corporate electric utility provider with a generation mix comprised nearly entirely of coal and nuclear plants. In order to meet North Carolina’s growing energy needs, NC WARN has promoted a combination of energy efficiency, demand-side management, and renewables while avoiding the need for new power plants. In contrast, Duke Energy has asserted that only new coal and nuclear plants are capable of reliably meeting this demand. This project analyzes why the two groups’ approaches differ and what barriers and disincentives prevent Duke Energy from adopting NC WARN’s more “sustainable” energy plan. It also offers recommendations for research, regulation, and policy solutions that could be used to bridge this gap. This project also provides a closer examination of the arguments surrounding Duke Energy’s controversial on-going construction of a new coal-fired unit at Cliffside, North Carolina via analysis of Duke Energy’s cumulative air emissions under various carbon scenarios. The results of this simulation demonstrate that carbon tax policy and renewable energy incentives will play a major role in determining whether a shift away from coal plants not involving nuclear will become a reality for energy generation in North Carolina as well as the United States as a whole.
DepartmentNicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences
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