Duke forgets to bring the sauce to the energy storage BBQ

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Duke Energy has aggressively promoted its investments in solar, and now is attempting to do so in energy storage – but the reality is, the company cannot claim leadership in these areas.

To give some perspective, North Carolina has over ten million people, and South Carolina just above five million people – while the Hawaiian Islands total almost 1.5 million (making the Carolinas a full order of magnitude larger). This morning, pv magazine reported on the islands negotiating deals for over 1,000 MWh of energy storage as they aim for 100% renewable energy by 2045. These projects will probably be installed before the end of 2022 to maximize federal government tax credits.

This morning, the Duke Energy press department offered up that it would invest $500 million in energy storage projects over the next eight years, totaling approximately 300 MWh of energy storage. This is an underwhelming number and follows Duke’s history of pumping headlines, but ignoring the realities of climate change while the Carolinas recover from one devastating hurricane, and prepares for another.

Duke Energy had greater than $23.5 billion in revenue last year. $500 million, evenly spread over eight years at $62.5 million a year, would represent 2.7% of Duke’s 2017 revenue. Duke Energy paid their CEO over $21 million in 2017.

In these same documents (Duke Energy Progress 271 page PDF, and secondly for Duke Energy Carolinas 278 page PDF) , the utility proposed getting rid of coal by 2050 (!!), and installing almost 10 GW of gas by 2033, while adding approximately 3.7 GW of solar power in the same time frame. Pacificorp, a Berkshire Hathaway electricity utility serving six Western states, said it has no plans to build new gas or coal in the coming decades, but instead plans to add 2.7 GW of wind and 1.8 GW of solar. The Colorado PUC just voted to close coal facilities early and not build news gas in exchange for new solar+wind+storage facilities.

In a time when utilities like Pacific Gas & Electric are signing 2.7 GWh of energy storage to de deployed in five years, Colorado is seeing solar+storage bids under 4¢/kWh, and states like Massachusetts are pushing SMART energy storage incentives, it is disappointing to see such weak projections from the U.S. electric utility industry’s highest paid CEO.

 

Update: This article was updated at 12:11 PM on October 10: Duke has revealed that the 300 MWh of energy storage will be deployed over eight years, versus the fifteen years the IRP talked about. This means higher annual averages, and multiple figures in this article have been corrected to reflect this. Duke Energy also asked pv magazine note that those in the Carolinas pay a very low rate for their coal and gas powered electricity, and that it isn’t fair to compare them to states like California and Hawaii whose populations have chosen to invest in clean electricity.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own, and do not necessarily reflect those held by pv magazine.