Duke Energy solar panels (copy)

Duke Energy employee Bilbo Garrison works on solar panels at Capital Partners Solar in Elizabeth City.

North Carolina would do its part to reduce the greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change and respiratory problems — among the many other ill effects of pollution — under a plan proposed by the Cooper administration to increase electricity from renewable sources.

We commend Gov. Roy Cooper’s commitment and leadership in this area, as well as the efforts of professionals at the state Department of Environmental Quality. The plan, which is open for public review and comment through Sept. 9, would reduce greenhouse gases from electricity production by 60% to 70% of 2005 levels by 2030 and 50% by 2025. Its ultimate goal: zero emissions by 2050.

This proposal follows significant progress already made by the state. Greenhouse gas emissions are 34% lower than 2005 levels, DEQ says. The plan likely would require retiring coal power plants and turning utilities toward more solar and wind energy production. It also suggests setting carbon dioxide budgets or carbon caps. Such strategies have seen success in other parts of the world and are becoming increasingly mainstream.

Local efforts are essential, especially since President Trump withdrew the U.S. from a leadership role in reducing greenhouse gases on the world stage. The administration also is rolling back other environmental protections.

Cooper is one of 25 governors who have stepped up in Trump’s absence, signing on to the U.S. Climate Alliance and committing North Carolina to the goal of reducing greenhouse gases and supporting clean energy. An executive order signed by Cooper last year required DEQ to devise the plan.

“Duke Energy has significantly reduced carbon emissions by retiring coal and adding more renewables and cleaner natural gas,” Stephen De May, the N.C. president of Duke Energy, said in a statement. “We are transitioning our system to even cleaner energy, while upholding our responsibility to provide reliable, affordable power to customers. We look forward to continued dialogue with diverse stakeholders to achieve the critical energy policy objectives for the state of North Carolina.”

North Carolina may be doing its part, but pollution doesn’t respect state borders. Other areas in the country are getting worse.

Some states bristle at the idea of investing in clean energy, and in the past critics have noted its technological limitations (though the sun going down at night and cancer from windmills are not among them).

Coal and gas seem more reliable to them at a cheaper cost. But with investment and American ingenuity, clean energy technology continues to improve and prices have consistently dropped.

Fossil fuels, on the other hand, have required more and more government intervention, in the form of subsidies and job protections, to survive.

Careful planning now, based on sound science and a firm commitment, will help preserve a clean and healthy environment for future generations.

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