Duke Energy power plant (not in North Carolina, sorry) photo by Mike Baird.
Duke Energy has been doing a lot lately to try to green its image: expanding its wind development, installing solar panels across North Carolina, talking up transitioning to a low carbon economy. However the fact remains that the vast majority of the power it generates, and its customers consume, comes from non-renewable sources. In fact Duke Energy is, at over 100 million tons annually, the third-largest emitter of CO2 in the United States. Which is what makes this next announcement a little bittersweet for me.
Residential Carbon Offset Program
Duke Energy is partnering with NC GreenPower to offer carbon offsetting for its residential customers in North Carolina (South Carolina customers will be included soon). Under the scheme, Duke customers can purchase carbon offsets for the energy they use at the rate of $4 per 500 lbs of CO2 emitted. For Duke's typical customer this means offsetting $8 per month. The plan can be enrolled in via the Duke website, the offsets reflected on their bill, and the money passed on directly to NC Greenpower.
NC GreenPower is a non-profit carbon offsetting program, administered by Advanced Energy, that has been operating on a state-wide basis since 2003.In announcing the program, Duke Energy said, "We value our customers' commitment to energy efficiency and a clean environment. Through our partnership with NC GreenPower, we hope to give them the opportunity to achieve their personal goals through these carbon offsets."
Climate Change Will Affect Both Those Who Offset and Those Who Don't
I know Duke is attempting to clean itself up, and Duke CEO James Rodgers has talked the green talk of late—I applaud them for that—but the wording in the announcement of this program leaves me thinking that they don't entirely get it. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions isn't a lifestyle choice or a "personal goal", it's a cultural imperative. The results of failure will be passed on to people who pay for their offsets the same as those who don't, or financially can't.
In short: It's great that Duke has provided an easy way for customers to offset the carbon emissions their electricity usage generates, but Duke doesn't seem to fully realize that perhaps the company itself should be paying for at least part of the pollution it creates.
:: Duke Energy
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