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North Carolina City Asks Duke to Cut Its Coal Reliance

"We just can't say that by 2030 we're going to shut down the coal plant and everybody is going to get their juice from their backyard," said Duncan McPherson, chairman of Asheville's Sustainability Advisory Committee on Energy and the Environment. "That would be great. But I don't think that's realistic. We're going to need to work with the utility company to get there."

The resolution is intended as a roadmap to a long-term plan for protecting air and water quality and to establish a partnership with Duke Energy in moving toward reducing carbon dioxide, McPherson said.

"The vast majority of our electricity comes from coal right now, and if we're going to reduce that by 80%, we have to have our coal electricity providers engaged in that process," McPherson said.

He's optimistic Duke Energy will agree that coal is not the long-term answer.

"Their industry is shifting. They're going to need to evolve with it. I think resolutions like this -- communities like Asheville -- can really make a difference. The more they hear it, the more they see it, the more it's going to be on their radar and agenda," he said.

Martin said the resolution was important because it acknowledges Asheville can't meet its carbon reduction goals unless Duke transitions from coal to clean energy.

She said the Asheville coal plant is the largest source of carbon dioxide pollution in western North Carolina.

"So we imagine the immediate next steps are deeper investments in renewable energy, deeper opportunities for energy efficiency -- and in the next several years a transition off of coal," she said.

Duke Energy, the nation's largest utility by number of customers and market value, is turning more to solar and other forms of energy while reducing its reliance on coal, Culbert said.

"By the end of this year, Duke Energy will have retired seven of the 14 coal plants in the state," she said.

Still, Duke will continue using coal because it has a state-mandated responsibility to provide reliable electricity at the lowest reasonable cost.

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