Op-Ed: Sustainable electricity we can rely on

Published 6:46 pm Sunday, January 22, 2023

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By Governor Roy Cooper

North Carolinians deserve reliable, sustainable electricity at a reasonable cost, but because of increasingly severe weather and aging fossil fuel plants, that result could be less certain. That’s why we now have a plan to ensure more reliable and sustainable electricity by moving more quickly toward low-cost renewable energy.

We only have to look at December’s severe cold weather to see more than half a million frustrated North Carolinians without power during the Christmas holidays. According to Duke Energy, the Christmas Eve power outages resulted from equipment failures at coal and natural gas plants while renewable energy performed as expected. Families spent Christmas Eve without lights or heat because of equipment failures at five different fossil fuel plants. This is unacceptable and North Carolina is taking action to prevent future power failures.

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It starts with the plan to transition from fossil fuel-generated electricity to more clean energy. In October 2021, I signed the bipartisan state law, House Bill 951, which set the first-ever carbon reduction goals for our state while working to keep costs low and reliability high. As directed by this legislation, the Utilities Commission recently released a carbon plan with a balanced approach to increase renewables and make sure there is a more reliable electric grid. Solar energy is already cheaper than coal and gas, and rapid advancements in wind energy and battery storage technology will make them an even more essential part of a reliable, lower-cost energy mix.

We also need to make sure our electric grid is prepared to handle our everyday power needs and is resilient enough to withstand future severe storms. My administration is planning investments in federal funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act signed by President Biden to help North Carolina build a more modern, resilient energy grid delivering reliable, lower cost, clean energy to our homes and businesses.

And let’s not forget the great jobs the clean energy economy is already bringing to North Carolina – not only did CNBC rank our state as the best in the country to do business, so did Business Facilities magazine which cited growth in our clean energy sector as a driving factor.

Clean, reliable and low-cost electricity is the backbone of our communities and a strong economy. The significant investments to move the electric grid to more reliable, cleaner, renewable energy will help put more money in the pockets of North Carolinians.

Finally, there is almost universal scientific agreement that climate change is causing more severe weather and putting our planet at risk. Carbon emission reductions are essential in the fight against climate change, and high-paying clean energy jobs are a positive by-product of the transition away from fossil fuels.

North Carolina has a history of forward-looking innovation that has been the foundation of our success as a state. Now we’re deploying that tradition again to tackle our 21st century energy challenges.

Roy Cooper is the governor of North Carolina.