Lynn Good, Duke Energy CEO, on How the Biden Administration Will Push for a Greener Grid



(Miss this week’s Leadership Brief? This interview below has been sent into your inbox of Leadership Brief subscribers on Sunday afternoon, Jan. 24; to get weekly emails of discussions with the world’s leading CEOs and business decisionmakers, click here.)

We may eventually get infrastructure week. The election of Joe Biden and the subsequent twin Senate election victories in Georgia, that gave Democrats a narrow majority in both houses of Congress, also have raised hopes that the subsequent four decades will visit large investment in renewable energy, storage technologies and also electric-vehicle infrastructure. Tactically, Biden’s approach is to connect green investment into job creation and economic recovery: Earn union-level wages creating solar panels! And independent of federal policy, there is both developing consumer demand and also private-sector investment in more sustainable goods, according to Tesla’therefore $800 billion market cap.

For at least a decade Duke Energy, one of the nation’s biggest power generators, has been employed to wean itself in favor of cleaner resources of energy. Since 2005, Duke has reduced its carbon emissions from 39 percent, staggered 51 coal-fired power plants from the process and becoming a significant operator of solar plants in southern North Carolina and elsewhere. It recently completed installing 530 charging channels in Florida, a portion of a strategy to establish a corridor of channels throughout the area it serves. Nonetheless, the company states it will face important challenges in ramping up to produce enough green electricity to power the houses and businesses in its own six-state operating area (Florida, the Carolinas, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana). The company states it will require getting almost 30 percent of its power from technologies that are yet to be invented to fulfill its target of becoming a net-zero producer of carbon by 2050. The remaining power is going to be produced by renewables (40 percent ) and atomic (30 percent ). Creating such breakthrough technologies will require a national effort to “Reduce R&D investment,” states Duke CEO Lynn Good.

For all its focus on greener forms of power, Duke Energy is still dealing with its legacy as a big coal user. Actually, Duke has up-close expertise with Biden’s nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, Michael S. Regan, who has been serving as the mind of North Carolina’therefore division of environmental quality. In January 2020, Regan reached a settlement with Duke for its cleanup of almost 80 million tons of coal ash in Duke facilities in North Carolina. Coal ash, that can be created when coal is burned to create electricity, includes mercury, cadmium and arsenic, and without proper management, such contaminants may pollute waterways, groundwater, drinking water and the air. It was the biggest coal-ash cleanup in the nation’s history. At the moment, Regan stated, “We are holding Duke accountable and will continue to hold them accountable for their activities as we protect public health, the environment and our natural resources. ” Good said the payoff “is still a reasonable, commonsense approach that protects people and the surroundings, while keeping costs in check as far as possible to benefit our clients. ”

Great recently joined TIME for a video conversation to explore the new Administration, the challenges of electricity storage and exactly what it’so like when protesters construct a fracking tower onto your front lawn.

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(This interview with Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good has been condensed and edited for clarity)

How has the current election altered the timetable of your objectives?

As I look at the Biden Administration, climate is the top priority. It’s most equally important to them. It’so equally crucial to us. We all ’re well-positioned, also we’ll be searching for strategies to work with the Administration and the new Congress to accelerate and progress our strategies in the attention of our clients.

Are there specific areas where you believe you understand the timetable can really accelerate?

Renewable deployment is going to be part of the narrative. We are spending a lot of time talking about the demand for investment in new technologies, whether it’s longer-duration storage or hydrogen, advanced nuclear, carbon grasp. As we consider the subsequent few decades, now we want some new technologies to be able to reach net-zero.

Are you really at a tipping point?

Movement around carbon decrease and incentivizing investment is not only a federal matter, it’s state matter. States are now moving. Customers are demanding it. There’s momentum from quite a few different places.

I was surprised to learn that North Carolina is your No. two solar producer in the nation. Is that because the sun always shines in North Carolina, or is this particular policy?

It has been mostly driven by policy, tax incentives. A lot of federal incentives really spurred that development.

And there’s a great deal of times of sun from the state?

The challenges from North Carolina are not around sun; there’so plenty of it. It’therefore the way power is used in the country. We are a winter-peaking usefulness, which means the maximum demand for power is on winter mornings–January, February, 7%. There’s not any solar afterward. So we’ve got some matters we’re working through how to match the renewable resource with the time that we actually use the power. We use resources that we can turn on when we want them, that is natural gas and other things. An example of this would be when it’s sunny to a Sunday afternoon in January, and I understand that it’s gonna be 15° on Monday afternoon, I might not have the ability to save enough electricity to be able to meet that demand on Monday morning. And I further have to think about is it gonna be glowing enough Monday to recharge the batteries? So I’m making decisions on if I want to ramp up another type of creation for me through Monday, prepare for Tuesday, prepare for Wednesday, since our clients don’t want intermittent power.

Let’s talk about storage, the most holy grail for its energy market. Somebody in solar stated it’s one of those few modern businesses that can’t save the product it creates. What improvements do you anticipate in the future?

We have a lot of projected investment in storageabout $500 million [over 15 years now ] in different storage resources. We are still searching, though, for something that may move energy and save energy longer than hours. We want some more science and R&D and research and technologies for this to truly be the holy grail. Because I don’t think the holy grail is transferring it from two in the afternoon to 5. It may be to move it out, you knowa sunny afternoon on Jan. 5 to Jan. 20, even when we have a protracted period where it’therefore cloudy. So that longer-duration storage is where we’re concentrated from a 2030s and 2040s perspective.

So now there ’s kind of incremental improvements under way, however the storage sport changer remains to be devised?

To be developed.

How reliant are you on technologies that don’t now exist now to meet your carbon-reduction objectives?

We have a very clear line of sight on the best way to reach 2030 with present technology. When you enter the 2030s and 2040s, that’therefore where it turns into just a little bit more complicated, since I don’t understand if I’m gonna be picking carbon or atomic capture or long-duration storage or … and so making that prediction of what exactly it ’s going to look like in 2050 can depend a lot on what technologies develop. We are not prepared to say that it ’therefore going to be a future of 100% renewables. Because as the individual who has to make it work, we don’t understand how to create that work now.

Our clients don’t want occasional electricity.

About half of your energy now comes from nuclear plants?

Right. We are strong advocates for atomic power. If you have a take a look at the Carolinas specifically, we’ve got six nuclear power plants that provide 50% of the power for this area. It’s carbon-free, it runs all the time. So you flip into a nuclear plant many of them run for 2 years without disturbance. You refuel them each couple of decades. We’re working with TerraPower on advanced nuclear that’s storage capabilities as part of the layout.

I recently read a letter to the editor in your regional paper that has been headlined “I protested in Lynn Good’s drive and here’s why. ” That sounds like quite a day.

I completely respect different voices from the dialogue and the fact that not everyone’s going to agree with everything we do. We are extremely busy engaging with stakeholders from the environmental area, from different customer groups, since we would like to hear what they must say. If it comes to my house, thoughI probably enjoy it a little bit less. They had constructed a construction –it was a fracking tower–and actually brought it in on kind of a trailer-type thing.

In the long run, your organization ended up canceling the pipeline that has been under consideration that was being trashed. So part of the conscience was it went over a part of the Appalachian Trail, is that correct?

It didn’t go on itwent underneath –700 ft. underneath, entering private land, beneath the trail, leaving on private land. You’ll find 56 pipelines that operate beneath the Appalachian Trail.

How has your residential vs. commercial/industrial mix been influenced by work from home and also the economic downturn associated with COVID shutdowns?

Employees are in the home. Our residential load continues to be up 4% to 5%. The decline in commercial/industrial has been much greater than the increase in residential, therefore we project to be down 3% complete in 2020.

We are not prepared to say that it ’s going to be a future of 100% renewables.

Describe your own investments to help build the electric-vehicle industry.

To remove that concern about just how am I going to charge my car, we’ve been active in attempting to put charging infrastructure set up in our nations to truly spur adoption. We put in 530 [charging stations] within our service territory in Florida. We just have approval for a pilot in South Carolina. We only got approval to do so in North Carolina. We’re attempting to create corridors of charging infrastructure. Transport is a larger carbon emitter than power. So if we could get cars off the street that are combustion engines and put them in the electric group, then our carbon cuts may further the carbon cuts in the transportation sector.

New topic. In September the Wall Street Journal reported that NextEra created an unsolicited takeover proposal for your organization in a deal valued at $60 billion. Are there any continuing talks?

So no remark, Eben, on market rumors. That has been our long-standing practice.

What’s & rsquo;therefore the most vexing problem that you’re wrestling with at this time?

I’m excited about a future where we have a very clear vision of where we’re attempting to go. But anyone who has a very clear vision has obstacles along the way. Those hurdles might seem like you ’s a very easy way to do it when you know that there isn’t a very simple way. I want to get to net-zero from 2050; there are a great deal of choices you have to make.

And therefore I have any stakeholders who want me to shut everything tomorrow and construct renewables. They don’t care much about the price because theyrsquo;re motivated by the ecological advantage. And I’ve got clients who are on fixed income who will say to me, “I cannot afford yet another dollar. Not one more dollar. ” And so I must locate a way to find those conflicting points of view, different points of view, put together to develop a strategy I will execute.

I could ’t maintain letting price go up forever. But I can’t stay on the sidelines and not enhance the ecological footprint. So that’so where the complexity stems, and implementing the very crystal clear vision, searching for the appropriate rate, the right time, the perfect trade-offs, construction support for those decisions you have to make. Because the execution is extremely hard.

I enjoy hearing from viewers. Please write me at [email protected]. Question: In relation to lowering your carbon footprint, what changes are you from the pandemic that you think will be lasting? For example, do you believe that will fly more or less after matters “return to normal”?

Additional Reading

Interested in energy and climate change? Below are some book recommendations.

Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming from Paul Hawken

Energy and Civilization: A History from Vaclav Smil

The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power from Daniel Yergin

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