2 min read March 2023 — Invest: was joined by Kendal Bowman, North Carolina president of Duke Energy, to discuss the transformational shift to clean energy the company and state are embracing to usher in a new era of energy distribution. “We’ve got to make sure this transition is done reliably and affordably. If we can get that right, we’ll put the state on a great path forward for generations to come,” she said.
What have been your key takeaways from the past year?
We’re in the midst of one of the most dramatic changes the energy industry has ever seen, and it is transforming how we deliver power to the Carolinas. This centers around a transition to clean energy that we are embarking on at Duke Energy. At the end of 2022, the North Carolina Utilities Commission released a carbon plan that serves as a roadmap for how we’ll deliver this clean energy throughout North Carolina – the plan includes significant investment in new renewables, energy storage, and new sources like advanced nuclear and onshore and offshore wind. We’re also looking to retire the rest of our coal fleet by 2035. And we’ve got to make sure this transition is done reliably and affordably. If we can get that right, we’ll put the state on a great path forward for generations to come.
How is Duke Energy making advancements on energy reliability for customers?
We’ve been making significant investments and improvements to meet reliability expectations. With climate change, we’re seeing more extreme weather events and we’ve got to make the grid reliable and resilient as well, so it can bounce back more quickly and people are without power for shorter periods of time. We’re also making investments in self-healing technology. This is technology on the grid that will notice something is wrong and re-circuit around problems, much like how a car’s GPS will reroute a car in traffic congestion. So people will be without power for shorter durations or ultimately don’t lose power altogether. We’ve made these investments in recent years and are planning ahead to spend significantly more to strengthen our grid going forward. Over the next three years, we will invest about $7.5 billion in North Carolina on transmission and distribution infrastructure so we can ensure we’re keeping the lights on for customers.
What have been some recent shifts in customer demand?
Customers are communicating more about their needs and concerns. We want to partner with them to develop innovative solutions so they can meet their sustainability goals within their timeframe. For example, Toyota selected North Carolina for an EV battery plant in 2022, and a key factor in that decision was our ability to deliver renewable energy to their site. Another clean energy initiative that we offer is the Green Source Advantage program, which was launched in 2017 and has seen great outcomes ever since, something both Wells Fargo and Bank of America signed up for. It provides access to renewable energy and is voluntary, so other customers aren’t paying for it, while these companies have the opportunity to meet their sustainability goals. In a filing with the North Carolina Utilities Commission, we’ve proposed expanding these renewable programs to offer up to ten times the capacity of prior programs. This is all based on customer feedback – we are creating new programs like this so we can partner with our customers to meet their sustainability goals.
What are some of your strategies for addressing carbon reduction?
North Carolina has a long-term goal for carbon reduction and Duke Energy is committed to playing a significant role in that, and that extends beyond just the energy we generate. For example, the transportation sector adds more carbon to our state’s atmosphere now than the energy industry. So if we can help encourage EV adoption, it will lower carbon emissions for the state and everyone wins. We’re jumpstarting EV adoption through several proactive initiatives. This includes the installation of 40 fast charging stations along major corridors like I-40 and I-95. We’re installing Level 2 charging stations at key public sites like retail locations and municipal centers. We’re also adding them to multifamily dwellings to allow more access to a wider number of people. And we’re really excited about our work with installing electric school bus chargers and leading that transition in school systems. A lot of this work is about gathering data so we can measure EV impacts on our grid, so we can better plan the grid for the future.
How has recent technology innovation impacted the energy industry?
At Duke Energy, we are continually focused on offering innovative products and services that allow our customers to better control their energy consumption. One way we’ve done this over the past year was to look at our rate design – a strategic rate structure can encourage customers to save energy and save money. We went through a yearlong process with our industrial, residential and commercial customers and stakeholders to look at potential rate designs we can offer to help them consume energy in a smarter way. One example is a new time-of-use rate, which provides price signals to customers about when it’s more efficient to use power, incentivizing customers to shift work like dishwashing and laundry to non-peak times so they can save money. These new rates will also encourage the adoption of technologies like smart thermostats that enable either the customer or Duke Energy to reduce demand on the system when needed – with financial rewards to customers for providing such optional access. We recognize that customers expect to experience their electric utility in a manner they experience other on-demand services like Amazon – they expect choice but also stability and responsiveness, and that is what is driving our focus on innovation.
How is Duke Energy creating deeper engagement with the communities it serves?
We are a part of North Carolina and Charlotte and are very invested in every part of this state. Our state headquarters are in Raleigh, while our corporate headquarters are in Charlotte. We believe we’re only successful if our communities are successful, and we are committed to building a diverse workforce that closely mirrors the communities we serve. To cite one local example, we’ve created a partnership with Johnson C. Smith University, working with our Foundation to commit $3 million to Charlotte through the Mayor’s Racial Equity Initiative – $2 million of that is going to Johnson C. Smith for workforce development programs and other education initiatives, with the other $1 million invested into Charlotte’s corridors of opportunity and low income and diverse communities.
What is your outlook for the next two to three years?
Our clean energy transition includes a local platform we’d love to utilize across the state. It’s called CitySET, or Sustainable Energy Transformation. We’re partnering with the city of Charlotte, Atrium and Crescent Communities in different ways. For Atrium, they want to reduce emissions as part of their sustainability goals and long-term strategy around their buildings and how energy efficient they are, so we’re working with them on how they develop their new innovation district, The Pearl, from the ground up. With Crescent and their new River District master-planned community, we’re collaborating with them to help incorporate EV charging solutions and to make sure homes are energy efficient, with an eye on long-term sustainability. It’s an exciting way to partner with the city and other innovative businesses to help them meet their sustainability goals.
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