How nuclear can help close the gap to net zero carbon emissions

Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good on the company’s path to a low-carbon future

This article first appeared as a LinkedIn Influencer post on Jan. 9, 2020. Good is the first CEO of regulated utility in the Influencer program, where her posts examine the industry’s evolving landscape. It has also appeared as an illumination article.

Around the world, there are important conversations going on regarding carbon emissions. Countries, companies and communities are all looking for solutions that move us toward a lower-carbon future.

As energy providers, we have an important role to play, and I’m pleased that utilities in the United States have already made solid progress on carbon emissions. At Duke Energy, we reduced our carbon emissions 31 percent since 2005, which meets or exceeds the standards of the former Clean Power Plan and the 2025 U.S. commitment to the Paris Agreement.

Yet it’s clear we must do more.

That’s why we refreshed our climate strategy, establishing a carbon reduction goal of at least 50 percent by 2030 and net zero by 2050. We have a clear line of sight to achieving the 2030 goal – with investments in renewables, storage, natural gas, energy efficiency and the retirement of coal plants serving as important solutions over the next decade. To reach our 2050 goal, we are strong advocates for investments in research and development to find new technologies necessary to close the gap to net zero – including enhanced storage, carbon capture and advanced nuclear. 

But to meet these short- and long-term goals, there is a resource that is often overlooked – one that is carbon-free and runs 95 percent of the time. That resource is nuclear. 

Nuclear provides more than half of our country’s carbon-free energy. For Duke Energy, nuclear accounts for more than 50 percent of our generation in the Carolinas. Nuclear is foundational to our climate strategy, and we are pursuing subsequent license renewals for our fleet. This will enable us to operate our plants for another 20 years.

Our ability to achieve these aggressive carbon reduction goals for the benefit of our customers and communities is dependent upon the reliability of nuclear energy. 

Keeping our nuclear plants running will also help make the transition to cleaner energy sources more cost-effective. Case in point: A recent MIT study highlighted the high cost of powering the grid primarily with intermittent renewables and the importance of having diverse energy resources, like nuclear.

The conversation on carbon emissions will only accelerate in 2020 and beyond, and we’re committed to being part of the solution. But as we move forward, we believe nuclear deserves a seat at the table.

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