North Carolina Deserves Better
Under a 2021 state law, the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC) is required to finalize a Carbon Plan by December 31, 2022, that achieves a 70% carbon reduction target by 2030 and 100% carbon-free electricity before 2050 with electric public utilities. The current plan, proposed by Duke Energy on May 16, fails to apply the aggressive rigor necessary to divest from fossil fuels and fight climate change. Earth Equity Advisors is among thirteen signatories of a letter submitted to the commission that calls out the Carbon Plan’s missed opportunities to meet statutory requirements.
Throughout the summer, the NCUC has been hearing public testimony virtually on this issue. On August 23, 2022, Peter Krull, CEO & Director of Investments for Earth Equity Advisors, provided the following testimony:
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“Chair Mitchell, distinguished Commissioners, thank you for the opportunity to provide testimony today.
My name is Peter Krull, and I am the Founder, CEO, and Director of Investments at Earth Equity Advisors. We are an Asheville-based Registered Investment Advisory firm that has been focused on Sustainable, Responsible, and Impact investing for nearly 20 years and manages over $150 million for our clients.
Not only does our investment firm invest in sustainable solutions like solar and wind for our clients, but my PhD-level scientist wife, Dr Melissa Booth, and I have been living in houses with solar PV for the past ten years or so, and our current home in West Asheville also has battery storage to compliment the solar panels. We’ve also been driving EVs for over five years and have a very good understanding of climate change, the existential risk that it poses, and the need to move quickly to clean energy sources asap.
I have joined today’s hearing to urge the Commission to develop an independent Carbon Plan that will achieve the 2030 and 2050 emission reduction targets established by HB 951 at least-cost and least-risk, for the sake of North Carolina’s businesses and households.
Duke’s proposed Carbon Plan does not meet that standard. Among other shortcomings, Duke’s proposal includes investments in new methane gas generation, which would require additional costly infrastructure unlikely to be constructed and available on the necessary timelines. Duke’s proposal also unnecessarily extends the operation of coal generation well into the 2030s; prematurely caps investments in energy efficiency, the least-cost resource; and forces the state to rely on speculative technologies like small modular nuclear reactors and zero-carbon hydrogen that are not yet proven in the market.
Analysis conducted by Synapse Economics demonstrates that there are alternative pathways that will achieve emission reductions faster and at a lower cost than Duke’s Plan. This suggests that the utility’s proposal is not in the best interest of North Carolina’s ratepayers or the state’s business community as a whole.
Instead, the Commission should look to the modeling and comments filed by the CLEAN Intervenors—NCSEA, SELC, NRDC, and others—for guidance on lower cost pathways to achieve our emission reduction targets on schedule. Among other key takeaways, that modeling demonstrates that cleaner, proven technologies—like solar, wind, and battery storage—are some of the most cost-effective options to achieve our goals. It also validates that energy efficiency can and should be the primary building block for a cost-effective pathway to reduce emissions in the coming years. Finally, the modeling shows that, given the cost-effectiveness of investments in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and storage, there is no need for any additional buildout of methane gas infrastructure to meet our targets.
While there will be opportunities to revisit and update the Carbon Plan in the future, the Plan the Commission develops now will be critical in driving the right long-term investments to get North Carolina on the path to meeting its emission reduction targets at least-cost. I and many others in the NC business community are relying on the Commission to take the CLEAN Intervenors’ modeling into account when developing its Plan, and not to accept the flawed Duke modeling—where the company clearly let their own interests influence their proposal instead of allowing the model to objectively pick the best pathway.
I thank the Commission for its consideration and trust that its final Carbon Plan will set North Carolina on a trajectory to meet our emission reduction targets at the least cost and the lowest risk to the businesses, ratepayers, and citizens of this great state. Thank you for your public service.”
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In addition to public witness testimony, the NCUC is hosting an expert witness hearing beginning on September 13, 2022, at 9:00 a.m. If you would like to monitor these hearings, please see their website for a YouTube link that will be made available on the day of the hearing.