Duke Energy Gets It Right

The nation's largest utility's biggest-ever commitment to solar energy
Duke Energy

This is one of those stories that needs no further analysis:

Duke Energy today announced a $500 million commitment to a major expansion of solar power in North Carolina.

This culminates the company's request for proposals (RFP) issued in February 2014 for new solar capacity. It will help Duke Energy further its commitment to renewable energy, diversify its energy portfolio and meet North Carolina's Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (REPS). It also provides customers greater access to renewable energy in a cost-effective manner.

The company will acquire and construct three solar facilities—totaling 128 megawatts (MW) of capacity—including the largest solar photovoltaic (PV) facility east of the Mississippi River. The three facilities will be located in Bladen, Duplin and Wilson counties.

Duke Energy also signed power-purchase agreements with five new solar projects in the state, representing 150 MW of capacity. Together, the eight projects will have a capacity of 278 MW. The $500 million commitment includes the investment in the three facilities and the value of the five long-term power-purchase contracts.

“This is Duke Energy's largest single announcement for solar power and represents a 60 percent increase in the amount of solar power for our North Carolina customers,” said Rob Caldwell, senior vice president, Distributed Energy Resources. “We are bringing large amounts of renewable energy onto our system in the most cost-effective way possible.”

What can you say except, “Good on ’em”? We’ve all had plenty of cause to dump on Duke Energy this year, so we ought to acknowledge when they get it right. Even if the motivation is profit rather than a newfound commitment to environmental responsibility, so what? That’s how good things get done. Combining responsible stewardship, potentially lower rates, and higher shareholder ROI sounds like win-win-win to me.