Many more North Carolinians would get their electricity from renewable energy sources if a plan proposed by Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration moves ahead.
The plan the state Department of Environmental Quality released Friday proposes reducing greenhouse gases from electricity production by 60% to 70% of 2005 levels by 2030, with a goal of getting to zero emissions by 2050.
The state has already made progress toward cutting greenhouse gas emissions, which are 34% lower than 2005 levels, according to DEQ. Emissions will dip to 50% by 2025 and then plateau for five years, according to the energy plan.
The plan offers suggestions for pushing emissions lower: requiring retirement of coal power plants and requiring utilities to increase use of renewable energy; setting carbon dioxide budgets or carbon caps; or a combination of those approaches.
The proposal is a sweeping discussion of a possible energy future for the state that includes increasing energy efficiency and using clean energy development to create jobs.
The proposal stems from the executive order Cooper signed last year requiring the state Department of Environmental Quality to devise the plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with climate change, the News & Observer reported. Cooper is one of 25 governors who signed on to the U.S. Climate Alliance, committing to the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate and advancing policies to support clean energy.
Will Scott, the energy policy analyst with the NC Conservation Network, said the state can reach the greenhouse gas reduction goals.
“We need to reduce emissions by two-thirds by 2030 and to get to zero by 2050,” he said. “An increasing number of states are moving in that direction. To remain competitive in the clean energy economy, North Carolina is going to have to have similarly ambitious goals. It’s about competition and opening up the energy marketplace.”
Workshops and regional “listening sessions” were held across the state as the proposal was being developed. Local governments, companies, private individuals, schools, environmental groups, and others participated.
Duke Energy, which participated in the DEQ workshops, said in an email the company looked forward to talking more about the proposal.
“We appreciate the governor’s leadership on energy policy for the state and are currently reviewing the draft plan,” Stephen De May, North Carolina president of Duke Energy said in a statement. “
Duke Energy has significantly reduced carbon emissions by retiring coal and adding more renewables and cleaner natural gas,” he wrote. “We are transitioning our system to even cleaner energy, while upholding our responsibility to provide reliable, affordable power to customers. We look forward to continued dialogue with diverse stakeholders to achieve the critical energy policy objectives for the state of North Carolina.”
The public comment period is open until Sept. 9.