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By Cari Boyce, Senior Vice President, Duke Energy

As many countries, cities and companies seek to lower their greenhouse gas emissions and become carbon-free, you might wonder: "How carbon-free am I?"

Just about everything we do – from driving cars to flying on planes to streaming movies over the internet – carries a “carbon cost” of some level. Electricity usage is a component of your carbon footprint. But there is good news: If you’re a Duke Energy customer, about 60% of the electricity you use is already carbon-free.

This is no small feat considering the climate in this region produces some of the nation’s highest demand for electricity. However, Duke Energy meets this demand with a generation mix that has one-third less the carbon intensity than the rest of the nation.

In the Carolinas, about 50% of the power used is nuclear power, which emits no greenhouse gases. It’s the largest emissions-free generation source in the nation, with Duke Energy’s plants looking to continue operating safely for at least another 20-30 years.

Other carbon-free resources like solar, hydroelectric and energy efficiency programs combine to make up another 9% of the energy mix. That percentage will double, maybe triple, in this decade as the company continues to invest in solar and other carbon-free resources.

Coal, meanwhile, has declined to just 16%. That’s a shift from 2005 when coal made up almost half of Duke Energy’s generation in the Carolinas. As the company has retired coal units, natural gas usage has gone up and currently makes up 25% of the region’s energy mix.

The reversal in fortune for the two resources makes sense. Natural gas plants can operate 24 hours a day and are a needed resource when intermittent renewable energy is not available. But natural gas puts out about half the carbon emissions of coal. Duke Energy plans to retire its coal-only units completely by 2030.

Want to do more to improve your carbon footprint?

The best way to lower your carbon footprint is to use less energy. Duke Energy offers a wide array of energy efficiency programs for your home or business. Power Manager saves you money during high-demand periods while Home Energy House Call may discover some additional energy efficiency savings. Check out those and other programs here.

The company’s Renewable Advantage program allows customers to purchase blocks of renewable energy to offset other purchases from the company. For as little as $3 per month, customers can be a part of having additional renewable energy built in the state. See more details.

The company’s $62 million solar rebate program has been very popular for customers looking to install rooftop solar. Application windows open in January and July of 2021. But the rebates go fast. Learn more.

Whether you seek to do more or enjoy the region’s growing carbon-free power mix, Duke Energy has reduced carbon emissions by 38% since 2005 in the Carolinas. And you can expect more clean results in the future, as we work toward lowering carbon emissions at least 50% by 2030 and achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Originally appeared in the Winston-Salem Journal, 12-15-20