Settlement agreement with Vote Solar will help integrate climate risk into grid planning

Raleigh, NC -- In settlement agreements released yesterday by Duke Energy Progress, Duke Energy Carolinas and the solar advocacy group Vote Solar, Duke agreed to convene a Working Group to study the impact of climate change on its physical infrastructure investments in the electric grid. Vote Solar supports specific elements of Duke Energy’s grid improvement plan, such as self-optimizing grid, Integrated Voltage VAR (IVVC), and distribution automation, which support greater integration of distributed and renewable energy resources on the grid. Vote Solar does not oppose the other elements of Duke Energy’s plan to add reliability and resiliency to the grid. The Working Group will incorporate climate scenarios from the North Carolina Climate Science Report, published in 2020 by a North Carolina research collaborative to support Governor Cooper’s Executive Order 80.

In late 2019, Moody’s reported that Duke Energy faces high exposure to climate-related hazards, particularly to hurricanes in the coastal states it serves. At the same time, Duke filed rate cases in North Carolina that included a significant amount of grid infrastructure investments. Vote Solar testified that such large grid investments must now begin to take into account the forecasted impacts of climate change in order to adapt to future hazards and mitigate costs.

“North Carolinians are keenly aware that climate change is already posing severe economic costs on the state, and that those impacts are likely to intensify as each new year sets heat records,” said Thad Culley, Senior Regional Director at Vote Solar. “It is important for our  electric grid operators, like Duke Energy, to ensure that long-lived grid investments can withstand the changing conditions we expect to see over the next 5, 10, and 30 years.”

The Working Group will study ways to integrate the impacts of climate change into transmission and distribution system planning and assist in developing an implementation plan prior to the utilities’ 2024 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). Integrated Resource Plans are the long-term planning mechanism, filed every two years in North Carolina, that utilities use to forecast future demand and the resources required to meet that demand.

“This settlement is an important first step in developing the data needed to make high-confidence decisions about what infrastructure investments are prudent in the face of climate change,” Thad continued. “North Carolina families and businesses will be left paying the tab if we fail to build a grid that is resilient to a changing climate. Duke's commitment to incorporate state-of-the-art climate science into its long-term planning will save consumer dollars and help North Carolina build a cleaner, more sustainable grid.” 

The agreement also includes a commitment from Duke Energy to pursue new pilot programs for customer-sited solar plus storage, customer-owned microgrid systems, and smart appliances and in-home devices that will help customers manage electricity costs and reduce the carbon footprint of the grid. The pilot programs will be developed prior to Duke’s 2022 IRP.

The settlement agreements now go to the North Carolina Utilities Commission for final approval.

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