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Duke Energy’s net zero goal requires huge investment in renewables and energy storage

Duke Energy is already halfway toward its goal of 16,000 MW in owned, operated and contracted renewable energy by 2025, the company announced in climate and sustainability reports released Tuesday.

In addition, Duke said that the combination of clean energy and efficiency programs have reduced its carbon emissions 39% below 2005 levels. The utility’s goal is to cut 2005 carbon output levels in half by 2030.

“Our commitment to ESG (environmental, social and governmental initiatives) has delivered strong results for our customers and our shareholders – and we’re focused on maintaining this level of performance and transparency as we work to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050,” said Lynn Good, Duke Energy’s chair, president and chief executive officer. “These two reports showcase the significant progress we’ve made in these areas, and our plan to help address the challenges from climate change.”

Last year, Duke announced 1,500 MW of new renewable energy projects, detailed plans to renew licensing of its carbon-free nuclear fleet for another 20 years and completed gas-fired projects to replace retiring coal-fired capacity. It also announced plans for extensive electric vehicle charging infrastructure and $600 million in energy storage investment over the next five years.

Duke’s generation portfolio, measured in net output of GWh, is 36% natural gas, 35% nuclear, 27% coal and 2% hydro and solar. The plant owned capacity is 42% gas-powered, 33% coal, 18% nuclear and 7% hydro and solar.

In the climate report, the utility laid out its plan for achieving net-zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2030. To reach that goal, Duke will need to grow its renewable and energy storage capacity significantly, utilize gas-fired capacity efficiency, keep the nuclear fleet going strong and retire more coal-fired plants.

The plan also requires low- or zero-carbon resources that can be dispatched quickly in load-following scenarios. These zero-emitting load-following resources could make up 12% of the generation capacity by 2050, according to Duke.

Natural gas will allow Duke to retire its remaining 16 GW of coal-fired capacity by 2050, according to the utility’s climate report. To reach the net-zero goals without adding gas capacity, the report forecasts Duke would need to install more than 15,000 MW of additional four-, six- and eight-hour battery storage in the next decade.

Additionally, the report indicates Duke plans to expand the capacity at its 1,065-MW Bad Creek pumped storage facility by about 320 MW over the next three years.

This article was adapted from on that appeared on sister site Power Engineering.