eLab Accelerator 2019

Duke Energy Clean Cities Initiative

Project Objective

Build productive partnerships between Duke Energy and North Carolina communities in order to achieve carbon reduction goals in the time frames set by each city.

Team Members

  • Christy Daniel, Forecasting Director, Duke Energy Renewables

  • Mike Hughes, Duke Energy Community Relations

  • Rob Phocas, City of Charlotte Sustainability Director

  • Megan Anderson, City of Raleigh Sustainability Director

  • Dionne Delli-Gatti, Environmental Defense Fund

Project Description

Communities across North Carolina have set goals to power their operations with 100% clean energy, in some cases as soon as 2030. The Governor of North Carolina has also set forth a state-wide commitment to a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Overall these goals align with those of Duke Energy: over the last 10 years, Duke Energy has reduced carbon emissions by 31% and aims increase those reductions to 40% by 2030. Duke Energy’s decarbonization efforts will be achieved primarily through the retirement of coal generation and the development of new renewable energy facilities. Moreover, Duke Energy has begun aggressively pursuing other resources and programs designed to reduce carbon emissions even further and faster.

However, achieving the clean energy goals that both North Carolina cities and Duke Energy have set on these ambitious timelines will require developing and implementing new and innovative solutions quickly. Establishing strong working partnerships between the cities and Duke Energy will be a critical step to enabling and accelerating the necessary transformations.

At eLab Accelerator, this team will aim to develop these partnerships and explore how North Carolina cities and Duke Energy can collaborate to quickly move beyond resolutions to implementation strategies that will achieve its members’ shared objectives.

Progress Made to Date


To date, at least 14 cities in the state have passed, or have expressed intentions to pass, resolutions to transition their community to 100% clean energy. Duke Energy has actively engaged with many cities in North Carolina during their initial efforts to create clean energy goals and plans, but usually only on an individual basis. In 2018, the Environmental Defense Fund began to establish broader alignment and a community by bringing together cities from across the state to share plans, learn from one another, and identify areas of common interest; this accelerator team will build on the results of this work.


At eLab Accelerator, the Duke Energy Clean Cities Initiatives team spent several days reviewing opportunities to jointly advance city sustainability efforts in North Carolina and considering what types of initiatives might be of mutual interest to local governments and Duke Energy. A number of priority efforts arose from these discussions, including: a new green tariff for municipal customers; advancing EV charging infrastructure; renewable energy programs that leverage city-owned assets and allow cities to retain the renewable energy certificates; pilots or programs specifically aimed at reducing the energy burden for low-income and disadvantaged communities; collaboration on public outreach and education. The team will continue to explore the best mechanisms to move forward on these various projects, including an agreed upon collaborative between Duke Energy and local governments with specific carbon reduction goals.

Project Background Information

This project was inspired by three related efforts.

First, the Environmental Defense Fund organized a series of Cities Round Table events in partnership with the Department of Environmental Quality in North Carolina. At the first workshop, DEQ Secretary Michael Regan laid out a vision of collective partnerships to share best practices and address common challenges and solutions.

Second, and closely related to these cities’ goals, the Governor of North Carolina recently announced statewide greenhouse gas reduction goals along with new targets for energy efficiency in state government buildings.

Third, the project was inspired by progress made towards community energy goals in Asheville, North Carolina following the 2016 eLab Accelerator event. By creating a partnership made up of community, nonprofit, and business leaders, Asheville and Duke Energy have been able to significantly increase participation in several utility programs, allowing the community to avoid the construction of a new fossil fuel power plant.