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Responding to shareholder pressure, Duke Energy is releasing today a climate-change report that sketches a drastically changed electricity mix in a carbon-constrained future.

Why it matters: As one of America’s largest utilities, its speculation on this front is a bellwether for how the country’s electricity mix may change in the decades ahead. Duke provides electricity to more than seven million customers in the Carolinas, the Midwest and Florida.

Gritty details: It outlines a 2050 scenario where the world has taken steps to cut greenhouse gas emissions to a level consistent with keeping global temperatures from rising two degrees Celsius. That’s the big ambition of the 2015 Paris climate deal, but the current commitments aren’t close to reaching that.

Duke’s 2017 → 2050 generation mix:

  • Coal: 34% → zero.
  • Renewables (wind, hydropower and solar): 1% → 23%.
  • Natural gas: stays at about one-third.
  • Nuclear: stays at about one-third. This relies on an assumption that federal regulators grant Duke additional operating licenses to allow their existing reactors to run 80 years. That’s never happened before, though several companies are seeking such approvals.
  • The report creates a new, vague category called “new load following, zero emitting” technologies, which accounts for 13% of its mix by 2050. This is a catch-all for low-carbon resources not widely available today, like carbon capture technology and advanced nuclear power.

One more thing: The report pushes back against a growing number of activists and companies calling for 100% renewable energy. Duke cites the lack of storage technology and the intermittency of solar and wind as reasons they can’t reach that level. For example:

“On our system, we’re seeing more peaking and high demand days in our winter months when solar output is very low and there is not currently technology to allow us to move solar output we may have on our sunny June day to January.”
— Cari Boyce, Duke's vice president of policy, sustainability and stakeholder strategy

Go deeper

45 million Americans under winter storm watches near New England

Computer model projection showing the winds moving around the powerful East Coast storm on Saturday Jan. 29, 2022. Image: https://earth.nullschool.net

Nearly 45 million Americans are under winter weather alerts and warnings from North Carolina to northeastern Maine Thursday night, as a major winter storm threatens the region.

Why it matters: It is predicted to be the biggest blizzard since 2018 to strike the Northeast with more than 2 feet of snow possible in parts of eastern Massachusetts, according to the National Weather Service.

Judge nixes Gulf of Mexico oil leases in climate-focused ruling

Tug boats prepare to tow the semi-submersible drilling platform Noble Danny Adkins through the Port Aransas Channel into the Gulf of Mexico on December 12, 2020 in Port Aransas, Texas. Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

A federal judge on Thursday canceled the Biden administration's late 2021 sale of new oil-and-gas drilling leases in the Gulf of Mexico.

Why it matters: The ruling that the greenhouse gas emissions analysis by the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) was insufficient is a win for green groups that challenged the decision, as they seek to curb fossil fuel production.

5 hours ago - World

Zelensky questions U.S. warnings of "imminent" invasion in Biden call

Biden and Zelensky at the White House last October. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty

President Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had a back-and-forth in their call this evening about just how "imminent" the threat of a Russian invasion might be, according to three sources briefed on the call.

Why it matters: Biden has said previously that he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin will probably "move in" to Ukraine, and White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday afternoon that "an invasion could come at any time."