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How Utilities Stall Progress on Alternative Energy

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A new report from the Environmental Working Group claims that Duke Energy, the nation’s largest utility, is holding back the transition away from fossil fuels.

Renewable energy is more affordable than ever. In the United States, building new wind and solar facilities is cheaper than keeping some existing coal-fired power plants running. But not all utilities are embracing renewables: According to a new report from the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit advocacy group, utilities across the country are actively trying to undermine improvements in energy efficiency and the transition away from fossil fuels. And, EWG notes, the nation’s largest electric utility, Duke Energy, is the worst offender.

In a sustainability report from 2018, Duke’s Chief Executive Officer Lynn Good wrote that the company “has been leading the charge to a cleaner energy future.” But in its filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Duke noted that legislation mandating efficiency gains and increases in customer-owned solar panels would lead to decreases in demand for electricity, threatening the company’s profits.

The EWG report found that the utility, which operates in North and South Carolina, Ohio, Indiana, Florida, and Kentucky, has been slow to invest in renewable energy resources. Just 2 percent of the electricity it generated last year came from renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, compared to a national average of 17 percent. By 2030, Duke plans to generate just 10 percent of its electricity from wind, solar, and hydropower—still less than the current national average. Meanwhile, 65 percent of the utility’s energy comes from fossil fuels, including 31 percent from coal.

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