Duke Energy Accuses Solar and Wind Energy for Increased Air Pollution

Organizations around the world are pushing forward with initiatives for alternative sources of energy. They’re investing in solar and wind projects to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels; to decrease emissions of greenhouse gases, and to protect the environment. However, one company wants to do the opposite.

Duke Energy, the nation’s largest investor-owned electric utility, accuses wind and solar energy for increase in air pollution. The company claims adding solar and wind energy to the electric grid will increase greenhouse gas emission into the atmosphere.

They also said the increase in nitrogen oxide emissions is the result of frequent cycling. Cycling is the scaling down and up, or stop and start of generators to accommodate high amounts of wind and solar use on the electric grid.

Kim Crawford, a spokeswoman for Duke Energy, told the North State Journal solar power added to the power grid is increasing emissions of nitrogen oxide. She goes on to say reductions in carbon dioxide emissions could reverse if solar use continues to grow without policy changes. Duke’s claim goes against a study conducted back in 2013.

The Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) conducted a study on the potential impact of adding wind and solar power on the operators of fossil-fueled power plants on the west side of the country. The study found 33% wind and solar energy penetration:

· Reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 29%-34%

· Reduced nitrogen oxide emissions by 16%-22%

· Reduced sulfur oxide emissions by 14%-24%

Carbon dioxide emissions impacted by cycling were negligible. Considering cycling and part-load in detail results in 1%–2% more nitrogen oxide reduction from wind and solar than expected because, on average, coal plants in the West have lower nitrogen oxide emissions rates at part-load. Cycling results in 2%–5% less sulfur oxide reduction from wind and solar than expected.

NREL’s study also calculated the cost of cycling with wind and solar energy. The combination of wind and solar increased cycling cost by $35-$157 million/year or 13%-24%. For an average fossil fuel plant, cycling costs increase by $0.47-$1.28/MWh of fossil-fuel generation. Wear-and-tear costs were also included in the study.

Duke Energy published a blog post on their website taking back what they said to the North State Journal. They state in the post “the increase in solar capacity is a sign of the very positive transition that’s under way to deliver the cleaner energy our customers want.”

They claim while a small increase in emissions might occur at some plants “our fleet will continue to see an overall decrease in air emissions from this transition to solar and other cleaner energy resources.” However, they’re words don’t match their actions.

Duke Energy has spent millions of dollars lobbying both federal and state levels to comeback environmental protections. The company has spent over $30 million lobbying to the federal government; more than any energy company.

They spent over $700,000 lobbying back in 2017 to push back Obama-era environmental regulations. The firm Duke paid the money to represent them wasn’t a big fan of the environment.

Duke Energy was represented by attorney and lobbyist William “Bill” Wehrum who was a partner at law firm Hunton & Williams (now called Hunton Andrews Kurth, LLP). He was appointed as Assistant Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for Air and Radiation by President Trump.

Since he has been in the position, his focus was to weaken environmental protections to help fossil-fuel companies. This isn’t the first time he’s been going against the environment.

Bill Wehrum was Acting Assistant Administrator of the EPA during the Bush Administration in 2006. Wehrum was nominated for the permanent position in the EPA, but Senate Democrats blocked the nomination for creating rules that would harm the environment and benefit fossil-fuel companies.

Former Senator Environment and Public Works Committee chairwoman Barbara Boxer referred to Wehrum as “extremely troubling” for his record of ignoring scientific findings and health impacts of the people. Customers of Duke Energy are suffering from their business practices as well.

Duke Energy introduced a bill to its South Carolina customers earlier this year. Inside the proposal, the company wants to triple the hidden mandatory monthly fee customers have to pay whether they use more or less energy.

Customers had to pay $8-$9 per month for the hidden mandatory “Basic Facilities Charge,” but Duke wants to raise the fee to $28-$29 per month. This is terrible to their customers who want to save money and the planet by going solar.

This high mandatory fee will decrease the payback of investments customers have made in saving energy. Their customers replaced their light bulbs, insulated their homes, and installed solar panels on their roof to save money on their energy bills.

Now they’re being punished instead of rewarded for saving money and the environment; also people will have less incentive to save energy. Back in March, the company scaled back its fee increase proposal after opposition from the public. They dropped the fee to about $11; still 30% higher than the original price.

Better thyself, Better thy nation. Once the nations are right, the world will be right.