When Emily Liu was a freshman at East Chapel Hill High School, she wanted to do something to help the planet. So she and three peers participating in a climate leadership program applied for an NC GreenPower grant to install a solar array on campus.
The NC GreenPower Solar+ Schools grant program provides grants for 3-kilowatt to 5-kilowatt solar projects at schools that include a weather station, data monitoring, energy curriculum and training for teachers. The principal and even the mayor attended the unveiling ceremony, a proud moment for Liu.
Like Liu, many Duke Energy customers are looking to reduce their carbon footprints. The company has begun offering a way for North Carolina residential and small business customers who want to support clean power on their bills by purchasing 250 kilowatt-hour (kWh) blocks of energy through the new Renewable Advantage program. Each block of Renewable Advantage is equal to one-quarter of a renewable energy certificate (REC). One REC represents one megawatt-hour (MWh), or 1,000 kWh, of renewable energy.
“I think it’s important for young people to have a voice in all this, since we are the ones inheriting this mess,” Liu said. “Young people should be educated.” Today, the college freshman continues her passion for environmental sustainability efforts with plans to major in earth systems at Stanford University.
Six in 10 Americans said global climate change is a major threat to the country, up from 44% in 2019, according to a Pew Research Center survey from April 2020. For more than a decade, Duke Energy has reduced carbon emissions and recently announced a target of 50% carbon reduction by 2030, with the goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
When you buy RECs through Renewable Advantage, you are supporting the generation of electricity produced from a renewable resource with low or zero emissions. “Through this program we give customers the opportunity to take action,” said Gmerice McNeil, products and services manager with Duke Energy. “It’s easy and affordable and helps reduce the demands for fossil fuels.”
For every REC purchased as part of Renewable Advantage, Duke Energy will donate $2 to the Solar+ Schools grant program through NC GreenPower, a nonprofit that has connected North Carolina residents with renewable energy and carbon offset projects since 2003.
Since the program’s inception, NC GreenPower donors have supported more than 1,125 renewable energy and carbon offset projects, producing 1 billion kilowatt-hours of green energy and mitigating more than 77,000 tons of greenhouse gases. Those numbers aren’t the only payoff.
“Our biggest reward has been how this impacts the students at the schools,” said Katie Lebrato, marketing communications director with NC GreenPower. “Schools might have STEM or solar curriculum, but they don’t have any hands-on learning. This provides them with classroom kits and materials, as well as real, interactive experiences.”