Duke Energy partners with tech giants to speed transition to clean energy

Duke Energy has teamed up with several tech giants to explore new cost incentives for powering large businesses in North Carolina and South Carolina from carbon-free sources.

Duke, along with Amazon, Google, Microsoft and steel producer Nucor this week agreed to explore clean-energy generation innovations that should help utilities serve future energy needs as the two states expand their economies. The announcement was made at the White House Summit on Domestic Nuclear Deployment.

Agreements between the utility and tech companies signed this month outline new rate structures, known as “tariffs,” designed specifically to lower the long-term costs of investing in clean energy technologies like new nuclear and long-duration storage, Duke said in a statement.

Proposed Accelerating Clean Energy (ACE) tariffs would enable customers like Amazon and Google to “directly support carbon-free energy generation investments through innovative financing structures and contributions that address project risk to lower costs of emerging technologies,” Duke said.

ACE tariffs would facilitate on-site generation at customer facilities, participation in load flexibility programs and investments in clean energy assets — features Duke Energy said are attractive to customers with large-scale energy needs.

The tariffs would represent new, voluntary pricing structures for Duke Energy’s large commercial and industrial customers and would be subject to regulatory approvals in North Carolina and South Carolina.

“In this new era of large-scale energy demand, Duke Energy is committed to working with our regulators and customers to find innovative and responsible ways to satisfy the growing need for more and cleaner energy,” said Lon Huber, Duke Energy senior vice president for pricing and customer solutions.

“With the help of companies like Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Nucor, we can accelerate our service of large customer needs and the transition to cleaner energy, while reducing financial risks and supporting economic development in our communities.”

New Clean Transition Tariffs enacted under the agreements will enable Duke Energy to provide individualized portfolios of new carbon-free energy to commercial and industrial customers by matching clean-energy generation and customer load to reduce its overall reliance on fossil fuels for making electricity. The tariff program would be voluntary for larger customers seeking to boost their clean-energy use and would include “protections for non-participating customers,” Duke said.

Earlier this month, Duke Energy Chief Executive Lynn Good told investors during the company’s annual shareholders meeting that the utility is working to expand its clean   energy generation capacity.

“Duke Energy is also pursuing emerging technologies needed in the 2030s and beyond to reach our climate goals, including plans to build and operate the nation’s first solar-to-100% hydrogen fueled turbine, expected to be operational by year-end,” Good said.

The company’s electric utilities serve 8.4 million customers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky, and collectively own approximately 54,800 megawatts of energy capacity. Duke Energy Carolinas, a subsidiary of Duke Energy, owns 20,700 megawatts of energy capacity, supplying electricity to 2.9 million residential, commercial and industrial customers across a 24,000-square-mile service area in North Carolina and South Carolina.

Through investments in electric grid upgrades and cleaner generation including expanded energy storage, renewable sources, natural gas and nuclear, Duke Energy plans to achieve net-zero methane emissions from its natural gas business by 2030 and net-zero carbon emissions from electricity generation by 2050.

Kevin Miller, vice president of global data centers for Amazon Web Services, said the move is a step toward the company’s goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2040.

“As the world’s largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy, Amazon is committed to enabling new sources of carbon-free energy to help power our operations and the communities where our customers live and work,” Miller said.

“With a footprint of data centers, fulfillment centers and corporate buildings across Ohio, the Carolinas and Florida, we’re excited to collaborate with Duke Energy to find new solutions that can help us achieve our Climate Pledge to be net zero carbon by 2040.”

Google has ambitious plans to run all of its facilities with clean energy by 2030, a full decade before Amazon’s target date.

“We are always looking for opportunities to accelerate the delivery of new clean power to the grid,” Google’s Head of Energy Market Innovation Briana Kobor said. Through collaboration with Duke Energy, the Clean Transition Tariff creates a pathway for us and our peers to bring new, innovative solutions to the forefront faster, in a region we have called home for more than 15 years.”

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