From Scott Carlberg

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality has delivered its Clean Energy Plan (CEP) to the Governor. ECC encourages citizens to give it a look because the plan affects everyone in the state. Reading the plan is part of a personal education process for electricity customers.

The plan notes a range of important issues in our energy future, most notably the needs to decarbonize our power system and expand electrification of areas reliant on petroleum, which is largely transportation.

The report has six strategy areas (flow chart at the end of this blog):

“For each strategy, the following information is provided: Background, Recommendation(s), Action(s) corresponding to each recommendation, implementing entity, and action schedule.

  • Carbon Reduction: focuses on the development of greenhouse gas mitigation policy designs for the electric power sector
  • Utility Incentives and Comprehensive System Planning: addresses recommendations related to utility compensation methods, regulatory processes, and long-term utility system planning
  • Grid Modernization and Resilience: identifies pathways to modernize the electric grid to support clean energy resources, and ways to establish and maintain grid resilience and flexibility
  • Clean Energy Deployment and Economic Development: focuses on methods to increase customer access to clean energy resources, regulatory processes related to the way clean energy resources are valued, and emerging areas that can create economic opportunities
  • Equitable Access and Just Transition: addresses methods to relieve the energy burden on low income communities, provide job training, and develop a clean energy workforce
  • Energy Efficiency and Electrification Strategies: identifies approaches to electrify the transportation sector and end-use sectors.”

NC CEP Goals

The NC CEP has some frank language about energy. Refreshing. For instance:

  • Nuclear energy and its role in carbon-free power are near the front of the report, which is good. Nuclear is increasingly seen as essential as part of the energy portfolio that drastically lowers carbon. Both North and South Carolina have an advantage in nuclear.
  • Natural gas positives and negatives are noted. Renewable natural gas is discussed, also good.
  • Biomass is addressed with its good and not-as-good points: “Biomass energy is carbon neutral if growing the biomass removes as much CO2 as is emitted into the atmosphere from its combustion.”
  • Energy storage is noted as important, but a challenge. ECC sees this as an area that has huge potential but also has some of the biggest challenges to research and deploy.
  • Hydroelectric pumped storage is a significant contributor to supplying peaking energy (renewable, carbon-free) on the Duke Energy system and has been for many years.  Pumped storage ought to get more recognition in the CEP.  It has just a brief mention for a such a good option for carbon-free power.

Some parts of the plan reduce the efficiency of the energy planning process. Bog it down. There are a lot of areas for more discussion, convening and consideration. That is not a plan but an activity list.

Reinventing the wheel is an issue. For instance, “Establish comprehensive utility system planning process that connects generation, transmission, and distribution planning in a holistic, iterative and transparent process that involves stakeholder input throughout, starting with a Commission-led investigation into desired elements of utility distribution system plans.” Aside from the jargon, there are already processes in place that may just need to be adjusted.

The plan is a solid start. The test now is whether the plan starts to get implemented in a quick and pragmatic way or devolves into politics and a campaign season. Citizens and businesses with an eagle eye can keep that from happening. Speak up.

Over the next several weeks ECC will look at specific items mentioned in the NC CEP and help our citizens understand the ideas in the report.