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District Manager, Burke County

In his Jan. 7 opinion piece, “Speak your mind about energy bills,” Rory McIlmoil fails to acknowledge North Carolina’s progress in clean energy and misrepresents Duke Energy’s rate request before the North Carolina Utilities Commission. I’d like to set the record straight.

North Carolinians want a cleaner energy future, and our goal is to deliver it for them. Of course, actions speak louder than words. In September, we announced an updated goal of net-zero carbon emissions from electric generation by midcentury and an interim target of cutting carbon emissions by at least half from 2005 levels by 2030.

Together with stakeholders and policymakers, we’ve also made strong progress when it comes to expanding renewables in the state. We have connected more than 3,000 megawatts of solar — making North Carolina second only to California in installed solar — and expect to more than double this by 2025. This solar capacity, combined with cleaner and more efficient natural gas generation, allowed us to retire 26 coal units and reduce carbon emissions 34 percent in North Carolina. Our North Carolina utilities are also first and second in the Southeast for energy efficiency program performance. And 50 percent of the energy we produce today for North Carolinians is carbon-free, attributable to the contribution from nuclear, solar and hydroelectric plants.

Our proposed 6% rate increase would cover costs the utility has incurred on behalf of customers to shift to cleaner energy. This includes shortening the depreciable lives of coal-fired plants, a new solar facility and converting existing coal plants to cleaner, cost-effective natural gas.

The rate request also includes recent investments to improve reliability and grid resiliency and provide more convenience to customers. For example, Duke Energy Carolinas has installed more than 2 million smart meters to give customers real-time energy data to help save energy and money each month.

McIlmoil also falsely claims future expenditures and lobbying costs are a part of this rate request. The requested increase does not include future costs for coal ash management or the gird, nor lobbying expenses. While we’re proud to participate in public discourse on important policy matters, these efforts have always been funded by shareholders — not customers — in accordance with the law.

Asking our customers to pay more for electricity is difficult. We remain committed to making necessary investments to provide reliable and increasingly clean electricity, while balancing affordability for customers. Even with the proposed increase, rates will remain below the national average.

Robin Nicholson

District Manager, Burke County

Duke Energy

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(1) comment

Rory McIlmoil

Mr. Nicholson is attempting to distract from the facts of this rate case. He is correct that, up until now, with Duke's help North Carolina has become a leader in the nation in renewable energy. Duke has also "committed" to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 (which unfortunately is not fast enough to avoid the worst impacts of climate change). However, what Mr. Nicholson fails to add is that Duke's most recent Integrated Resource Plan projects that Duke will only provide 8% of their electricity with renewable resources by 2035. So it's not clear how Duke plans on getting to net zero carbon within the last 15 years between then and 2050, and their current rate case certainly doesn't contribute to meeting that goal.

Mr. Nicholson's comments are a poor attempt to distract from the fact that Duke's current request for a rate increase, aside from a meager solar investment ($15+ million), is primarily aimed at recovering costs related to coal ash compliance (more than $600 million), upgrades to their nuclear plant (more than $400 million), questionable "grid improvement" investments, general grid upgrades and maintenance (more than $2 billion), and storm recovery costs (nearly $300 million). In other words, Duke's attempt to raise rates through their current rate request does relatively nothing to directly advance renewables or energy efficiency in North Carolina. Further, it does, in fact, request what's called a "deferred accounting mechanism" to get pre-approval for billions in future grid improvement and coal ash compliance expenditures. It also, in fact, requests an increase in the return on equity (generally, profit) Duke can earn -- up to 10.3% -- at a time when ROE's are on the decline around the US.

Those are the facts, and anyone who wishes to view these facts for themselves can search for Docket No. E-7, Sub. 1214 on the NC Utilities Commission website at https://starw1.ncuc.net/NCUC/page/Dockets/portal.aspx. Just copy and paste that link. The docket you'll want to view is titled "DECNC Application and Exhibits A-D."

The facts clearly support my initial OpEd, and it would benefit Duke to acknowledge truth rather than sweep it under the rug with their greenwashing.

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