The 2011 Powering a Nation staff has spent the last 10 weeks developing a project that shows the complexities of our relationship with coal. We hope that you will see how coal powers our lives and get a sense of what that means for people on different sides of the issue.
Ten weeks of reporting and research have resulted in the UNC News21 team understanding U.S. energy needs to undergo sea change. Industry, government and consumers must redefine their roles, actions and relationships with one another to deliver us from the fossil fuel era.
How should we be powering our nation?
We have two aspirations for our company and our nation that guide our planning and serve as a bridge to the low-carbon future we know is coming:
• Modernize and decarbonize our generation fleet, and
• Help make the communities we serve the most energy efficient in the world.
These aspirations are grounded in our commitment to provide our customers with affordable, reliable and clean energy, 24/7.
To achieve these aspirations, we are using a balanced approach that uses the five available fuels to generate electricity: coal, nuclear, natural gas, renewables and energy efficiency. There is no perfect fuel—each has pluses and minuses, and each one needs new technology development. But to keep energy prices affordable, our economy competitive, and to protect the environment, we must keep all five fuels in our energy mix for our nation to cross the bridge to a carbon-constrained world.
At Duke Energy, we are building an advanced coal power plant in North Carolina that will allow us to retire about 1,000 megawatts of older, higher-emitting coal units. In Indiana, we are building a cleaner-coal plant with the potential to capture and permanently store carbon emissions. We are building new cleaner-burning natural gas-fired power plants, and we have proposed building two new nuclear plants. We already operate one of the largest networks of hydroelectric plants in the U.S., and we are adding new renewable energy capacity to our utility companies, including wind, solar and biomass. We are even developing our own rooftop solar program in North Carolina.
For energy efficiency (“the fifth fuel”), we are pursuing an innovative plan that would change our business model. Our save-a-watt plan lets us earn a return on the cost we avoid from having to build new power plants through more aggressive energy efficiency and smart-grid initiatives. This is a win for our customers, investors and the environment because the most inexpensive and environmentally sound power plant is the one we don’t have to build.
This practical and balanced approach, combined with the passage of constructive federal climate change legislation and expanded energy technology research and development, would ensure our nation’s energy, economic and environmental security for future generations.
Jim Rogers is chairman, president and CEO of Duke Energy Corporation, headquartered in Charlotte, N.C.