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Duke plans to almost double its renewables by 2020

plans to own orpurchase 8,000 MW of solar, wind or biomass capacity by 2020, a goal that wouldnearly double the company's presence in renewable energy, the company said April28.The new goal is an increase from the 2013 goal of 6,000 MW by 2020.

Acrossits regulated utilities in the Carolinas, Florida and other states, as well as holdingsin competitive markets, Duke owned or purchased nearly 4,400 MW of these resourcesat the end of 2015, with 49% of that capacity from wind, 39% from solar and 12%from biomass, the company said in a statement.

Windand solar made up 4.5% of the company's overall capacity in 2015, according to Duke's"2015 Sustainability Report," issued in conjunction with the April 28announcement. Their contribution is even smaller when considering the amount ofactual electricity generated from these sources. Wind turbines and solar facilitiesgenerated 2.4% of Duke's energy in 2015, compared to 32.9% from coal, 31.1% fromnuclear and 25.9% from natural gas.

Coalcontinues to be Duke's biggest source of energy despite the 4,756 MW of coal-firedpower plants that the company has either retired or converted to natural gas since2011. But coal may not maintain that position for long. Another 1,865 MW of coalretirements are planned, according to the report, and the closure of 873 MW at units1 and 2 at the Crystal River Energy Center in Florida makes up the biggest chunkof those retirements.

Coal'sstanding in Duke's portfolio will continue to drop over the next five years, whilenatural gas and renewables will continue to grow, according to a Duke spokesman.The company expects to get 15% of its total generating capacity from renewablesby 2020, he said. That figure does not include conventional hydroelectric capacity,which made up 7.8% of capacity in 2015.

Closelylinked to Duke's interest in renewables is battery storage. Over the past severalyears, Duke has launched several pilot projects that tested the ability of batteriesto dispatch energy to smooth out the variability of renewable energy. The companyrecently indicated thatit is looking for opportunities to install commercial battery storage to serve thegrid in its regulated utilities.

Some environmental groups havecriticized Duke for not pursuing renewables strongly enough. Jim Warren, executivedirector of one of those groups, NC WARN, said Duke has not invested enough in renewablesin its regulated utilities specifically.

"The huge majority of Duke's[renewable energy] is outside its monopoly areas, and the expansion looks to bethe same," Warren said in an email. "If Duke were really going green, it would expand its official commitmentto [renewable energy] in its [integrated resource plans] in monopoly states."He pointed to Duke's integrated resource planfor its Carolinas utility, which forecast that 4% of the utility's capacity wouldcome from renewables by 2030 in a base case scenario, up from 1.3% in 2016.