Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Duke Energy is proposing that its future electricity mix rely heavily on renewables and nuclear power to reach its 2050 goal to be carbon neutral, the utility said Tuesday.

Why it matters: As one of America’s largest utilities, Duke’s sketch of this potential future is a bellwether for how a range of companies and states hope to achieve their similarly aggressive goals in the next 30 years.

Where it stands: Duke, which provides electricity to more than 7 million customers in the Carolinas, the Midwest and Florida, said in a report that huge leaps in innovation must happen in order to achieve its carbon-neutral goal by 2050, a target roughly in line with the Paris climate agreement.

  • The utility also said natural gas, which is increasingly opposed by some environmentalists due to its heat-trapping contents, is essential to help balance out variable wind and solar, even as its role in the energy mix decreases out to 2050.
  • Duke's 2050 scenario also relies heavily on a vague bucket of low-carbon technologies that aren’t commercially viable yet, which could include small modular reactors or equipment that can capture carbon emissions from natural gas plants.

By the numbers ... Duke’s 2019 → 2050 generation mix:

  • Coal: 24% → zero.
  • Renewables (wind and solar mostly): 5% → 36%.
  • Natural gas: 31% → 6%.
  • Nuclear: 31% → 28%. This relies on an assumption that federal regulators grant Duke additional operating licenses to allow their existing reactors to run 80 years, a move numerous utilities are making. Just a few reactors at other companies have been approved so far. (Duke hasn't yet officially requested its extensions.)
  • By 2040, the report includes the catch-all category of to-be-determined low-carbon technology for 16% of its mix. By 2050, it’s projected to be up to 30%.

Flashback: This mix is far more aggressive, especially with regard to its lack of reliance on natural gas, compared to a similar report Duke issued in 2018 under pressure from shareholders. That report was before the company’s 2019 climate goal.

  • In its 2018 scenario, the share of gas between 2017 and 2050 stayed about the same at one-third.
  • In Tuesday’s report, gas still increased in the (relative) short-term to make up 42% of Duke’s energy mix in the 2030s. By the 2040s it starts declining to 25%, and by 2050 it drops off a cliff to 6%.
  • After 2030, the scenario assumes all new natural gas plants will provide backup to variable wind and solar resources, not as a main source of power themselves.

What they're saying: The report suggests Duke will need to drastically increase the amount of electric capacity it has on its system to account for both coal closing and new demand.

  • "You’re talking almost about rebuilding the system," said Stephen Arbogast, director of the Energy Center at University of North Carolina's business school, who wasn't involved in the report but viewed it before publication. "The sheer magnitude of what they’re talking about doing is extremely challenging."

One level deeper: Left unmentioned was the potential cost for consumers in this scenario.

  • Duke didn’t perform official modeling on electricity prices out to 2050 "because it would be highly speculative and dependent on the regulatory constructions in each of our jurisdictions," a spokesman said.
  • "We did not want to speculate in a high-profile report that would cause confusion."

Go deeper: Civil rights leaders oppose swift move off natural gas

Go deeper

Los Angeles and San Diego public schools will be online only this fall

Alhambra Unified School District. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

Public schools in Los Angeles and San Diego, the two largest public school districts in California, will not be sending children back to campuses next month and will instead administer online classes due to concerns over the ongoing threat of the coronavirus.

Why it matters: The two districts, which together enroll about 825,000 students, are the largest in the country thus far to announce that they will not return to in-person learning in the fall, even as the Trump administration aggressively pushes for schools to do so.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 12,984,811 — Total deaths: 570,375 — Total recoveries — 7,154,492Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 3,327,388— Total deaths: 135,379 — Total recoveries: 1,006,326 — Total tested: 40,282,176Map.
  3. World: WHO head: There will be no return to the "old normal" for the foreseeable future — Hong Kong Disneyland closing due to surge.
  4. States: Cuomo says New York will use formula to determine if reopening schools is safe.
  5. Politics: Mick Mulvaney: "We still have a testing problem in this country."

Cuomo: New York will use formula to determine if it's safe to reopen schools

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday that schools will only reopen if they meet scientific criteria that show the coronavirus is under control in their region, including a daily infection rate of below 5% over a 14-day average. "We're not going to use our children as guinea pigs," he added.

The big picture: Cuomo's insistence that New York will rely on data to decide whether to reopen schools comes as President Trump and his administration continue an aggressive push to get kids back in the classroom as part of their efforts to juice the economy.