I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not have my Duke Energy bill go up by 50% in the next 15 years. With a house bill that was introduced earlier this year, HB 951, this could easily happen, all while Duke is allowed to keep pouring money into creating more dirty energy.
While the bill states that Duke will have to shut down some of their coal plants, it will be filling a majority of that new energy demand with gas-powered plants. These plants still create greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change and will be more expensive for Duke customers than renewable energy sources like solar.
The bill goes as far as to make the shutdown of the Roxboro coal plant — one of the largest in the U.S. — dependent on the availability of natural gas. This little stipulation all but requires an extension of the Mountain Valley Pipeline in order for the coal plant to shut down, which will add 70 miles to a current 300-mile pipeline in order to transport fracked gas from West Virginia into North Carolina. In the words of David Kelly from the Environmental Defense Fund, "The proposal appears to be a recipe for a more expensive and more polluting energy system than North Carolinians deserve."
The bill also proposes a change in how Duke handles their customer bills, allowing them to charge customers for future costs. It allows them to increase bills dramatically and encourages unnecessary spending on harmful and expensive projects. How so? The bill would allow them to start charging customers for costs that they project to have in the future, rather than only costs that have already been spent. This is called a multi-year rate plan, and Duke has been pushing for it for years in an attempt to shift their costs onto customers. The bill also aims to reduce the power that the NC Utilities Commission has over Duke’s billing decisions, leaving customers less protected.
Just out of college, I am in my first living situation where I am paying a utility bill; the fact that I would see that grow so significantly is both frightening and frustrating. Especially knowing that the increase is due to a dangerous monopoly that is choosing to develop gas-burning factories. Even more notably, because it has been shown that “the United States can achieve 90% clean, carbon-free electricity nationwide by 2035, dependably, at no extra cost to consumers, and without new fossil fuel plants.”
Just this August, we were given the “code red for humanity” by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Their report, in summary, stated that humans have undoubtedly caused climate change, and it will have drastic effects if we don’t act now. Recent events like Hurricane Ida and the current raging wildfires are proof that we are already seeing damages from climate change, and it will only worsen. Just last year, extreme weather events cost US taxpayers $99 billion, a record high as frequency and severity of events increases every year.
The NC Energy monopoly Duke is fighting to continue making climate change worse and push the financial — and societal — costs onto their customers. As a Raleigh citizen, I have no choice but to be roped in as a contributor to this negative impact on my future and on generations to come. We need to tell our North Carolina legislators to vote “no” on HB 951 and tell President Joe Biden that we need the Build Back Better Act. If you want to learn more about wielding your political power as a student, help the environment, or keep up to date with important climate news, check out Climate Action NC.
Editors Note: Updated Headshot.