Gas and electric utility Duke Energy plans to significantly reduce its carbon footprint through accelerating coal plant retirements, achieving net zero methane emissions in its natural gas business by 2030, among other proposed measures.

Management at Charlotte, North Carolina-Duke announced the goals Friday during what they called its inaugural environmental, social and governance investor day. Management expects to spend $123 billion-$133 billion on a 10-year capital expenditure plan to help fund the proposals, with $58 billion to be spent in 2020-24 and $65 billion-$75 billion in 2025-29.

Duke serves a combined 7.8 million electric customers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky as well as a combined 1.6 million natural gas customers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Ohio and Kentucky.

It operates wind and solar generation facilities across the United States, in addition to energy storage and microgrid projects.

Management said the company has eliminated all cast iron and bare steel pipes in its gas delivery system, removing a major contributor to methane leakage. It plans to achieve net-zero methane emissions by 2030 partly with new technologies to enhance measuring and monitoring, operational efficiencies and damage prevention initiatives. Management also plans to procure natural gas from suppliers that balance low methane emissions with affordable energy for customers.

Duke has joined ONE Future, a coalition of natural gas companies working to voluntarily reduce methane emissions.

“Working with the industry to address upstream emissions will complement the methane emissions reduction we will achieve in our natural gas business,” said Sasha Weintraub, Duke’s senior vice president of natural gas.

Some other goals include:

  • Accelerate the number of coal plant retirements, adding to the 50 coal units with combined capacity of more than 6,500 megawatts (MW) Duke has retired since 2010.
  • Retire all coal-only units in the Carolinas by 2030.
  • Double the company’s renewable portfolio to 16 gigawatts (GW) by 2025.
  • At least triple the renewable capacity for Duke’s regulated utilities by 2030 and increase regulated renewable capacity to 40 GW by 2050.
  • Add more than 11,000 MW of energy storage by 2050.

Duke management said in the company’s 2019 annual report, the latest such report available, that “natural gas remains central to our transition to a lower-carbon future.”

Management said at the time that the proposed 600-mile, 1.5 Bcf/d Atlantic Coast Pipeline it was developing with Dominion Energy would be a “necessary infrastructure investment” to bring low-cost gas from the Marcellus shale formation to eastern North Carolina.

But the project was canceled in July because of uncertainty and expected delays.

Management added in the 2019 report that “we cannot overstate the importance of nuclear,” in reaching the company’s green energy goals. 

“In the Carolinas, our nuclear plants account for nearly half of our generation,” management said. “Currently, we’re pursuing subsequent license renewal for our entire nuclear fleet. This will enable us to operate our plants for an additional 20 years.”