Duke Energy, NC officials announce coal-ash expense deal

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Coal Ash stored at Duke Energy's Sutton Plant in New Hanover County in 2015. (Photo: WWAY)

The proposed settlement announced Monday would shift $1.1 billion in expenses away from customers over the next decade to the nation’s largest electric utility and its shareholders.

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“It’s wrong for North Carolinians to bear the full cost of the cleanup,” Stein said. “Duke shareholders should pay their fair share.”

In 2017 the Utilities Commission approved Duke Energy’s request to put the cost of cleanup on customers, aside from a one-time $100 million environmental penalty.

Stein says coal ash is a 20th-century problem and if the settlement is approved, it will help the state move forward.

“We can close the dirty chapter of coal ash in North Carolina. This will allow us to focus squarely on the pressing energy issues of the 21st century, namely the rapid development of affordable, reliable clean energy to reduce the carbon emissions that are contributing to the climate crisis,” Stein said.

The estimated cost of cleanup from 2015 to 2030 is $4 billion. If the settlement is approved, $1.1 billion is being absorbed by Duke Energy and its shareholders, leaving the cost split about 75/25 with customers taking the brunt.

Duke Energy Spokesperson Meredith Archie says the state Utilities Commission has said the cleanup is a part of supplying electricity to customers as the company works to close the coal ash basins.

“It allows us to put the coal ash debate to rest and it gives us more financial certainty as we plan to transition to cleaner energy sources here in North Carolina,” Archie said.

According to Archie, the carbon emissions in the state have reduced by 39% since 2005. With a goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 that will be achieved through various clean energy resources.

“That’s going to require additional investments in solar, renewables, battery storage technology, certainly carbon-free nuclear is important in this,” Archie said.

If approved, customers can expect to see immediate changes on their monthly energy bills. Archie says there is not an exact timeline, but it’s expected that this will likely be reviewed in an expedited process.