South Carolina regulators rejected Duke Energy’s most recent Integrated Resource Plans (IRPs) for two of its subsidiary utilities, Duke Energy Carolina (DEC) and Duke Energy Progress (DEP), by a 4-2 vote.
A printed copy of the decision was unavailable and the full ruling may not be made public for weeks, if not longer. Even so, the South Carolina Public Service Commission (PSC) demanded that the utilities present modified plans that make a single and clear recommendation, rather than the six scenarios presented across the two IRPs. Regulators also ordered more rigorously calculated future gas prices that take account of solar contract prices.
A representative for Duke told pv magazine that the utility was evaluating the PSC’s decision and that the utility will better understand the implications of the decision once they receive the commission’s order.
The rejected IRPs are the same ones that received poor grades back in February in a report card evaluating the utilities’ generation plans. That report card was handed out by more than a dozen clean energy and environmental justice organizations. It took issue with Duke’s carbon reduction goals, plans to increase customer bills across all IRP scenarios, and low commitment to renewable energy.
“We appreciate there are diverse views on transitioning to a lower carbon future, and we actively engaged stakeholders across South Carolina and North Carolina to solicit input from them to inform the planning process,” the representative told pv magazine.
In response to the PSC’s decision, Tyler Fitch, Vote Solar’s regulatory director for the Southeast said, “Duke Energy’s plans failed to serve the people of South Carolina. He said it was clear that the company “failed to consider the impacts of a changing climate, and its own commitment to a zero-carbon energy system by 2050.” By ignoring these considerations, Fitch said that Duke’s plans would “hurt their own bottom line and their ratepayers’ wallets.”
Vote Solar was one of the clean energy and environmental justice organizations to contribute to Duke’s failing IRP report card.
Ripples of the Energy Freedom Act
The two Duke IRPs marked the second and third IRPs to go before South Carolina’s PSC since the state enacted its 2019 Energy Freedom Act. All three IRPs presented since then have been rejected, including Dominion Energy South Carolina’s in December.
The Dominion IRP failed to include a demand-side management resource or power purchasing options. The IRP also did not model any renewable energy additions prior to 2026, or any coal retirements prior to 2028. It also would have raised solar customers’ basic service charge to $19.50 a month, added a “solar subscription fee” of $5.40/kW a month, and slashed the solar export credit that customers could receive.
The rejected IRPs are identical to the two plans Duke utilities submitted to North Carolina, which have yet to be ruled on. The South Carolina ruling is certain to draw attention as there is an ongoing dispute over to whether North Carolina regulators can reject an IRP, an action without precedent. Adding more contention to the matter, the state’s Attorney General asked the commission to reject the plans, and the North Carolina commission’s general counsel said he believes it has the authority to require changes it sees fit before accepting the plans, even without outright rejecting them.