Duke Energy likes to burn stuff: So says its NC president

As if right on cue, the Raleigh News & Observer opinion section posted this on October 27th- Duke Energy NC president: Climate and the case for natural gas.

Barely a day prior, I had just posted about the climate change fueled California fires and how we’re all part of the larger explanation- Time to see through the smoke: fires, utilities, faulty perception and technical debt. With California burning out of control and Pacific Gas & Electric in the hot seat, the piece looks at “technical debt” as it relates to electric utilities, how their bad decisions compound over time, and how avoiding the problem makes solving it so much harder later. Companies like Duke just keep piling on the technical debt because they like to burn stuff.

Duke’s NC president, Stephen DeMay, in the N&O piece, brings up the red herrings of reliability and affordability and twists a stale pretzel around natural gas and nuclear. If you’re an investor-owned, government protected monopoly like Duke, these highly compensated executives are so predictable. They always fall back on these twin birds. Here’s where it gets twisted. He tells us reliability and affordability get us to carbon neutral. OK, sounds great. The catch? This ONLY works using their logic. In other words, up is down in the utility’s mind. They lust over natural gas and are pushing hard for the ill-warranted East Coast Pipeline. DeMay’s word play goes on, conjoining the oxymoronic “reliable” and “natural gas.” His conflation gives us this gem: “Reliable natural gas” gets us to a carbon-free future. How does more of a bad idea get us there? And by 2050? Dealing with the damage already done is mammoth enough, but 2050? Duke is not credible. Backward is forward in its mind.

Duke also likes its nuclear energy (because it already has lots) and DeMay does more shapeshifting here around carbon-free, placing nuclear and solar in the same breath. Yea one has to do a bait-and-switch with words here to lump solar and nuclear together. Not clean but carbon free. Pick your poison- a Fukushima redo or deadly greenhouse gasses. And then he pivots back to natural gas, twisting now into amazing shapes, saying more of it means more solar. As our friend and colleague, Nancy la Placa said recently, a friend in a western state asked her why they didn’t have more solar and before she could answer, another colleague laid it out in simple terms: because “they (the utility) like to burn stuff.”

A couple final observations. DeMay says North Carolina is second only to California in solar. True. A distant second. (Nobody remembers the second best player when Michael Jordan was winning NBA championships.) Even so, NC is second in spite of Duke, not because of Duke. DeMay obliquely chastises Duke’s detractors saying, as they so often do, that the experts know best. Don’t think, just trust Duke. There’s a coalition challenging Duke’s “expertise” making it clear that Duke does NOT know best, and maybe they’re rattled. Seems like it’s time for Duke to stop lobbying and start fighting fire.

Duke Energy sure likes to burn stuff.

Note: We post on Duke Energy only periodically because the company stands in the way of the kind of projects and energy future we want to see at AIRE. Such examples are here and here; use tags to find others. Other organizations do a great job when it comes to primary challenge to Duke’s antiquated and climate wrecking business model.

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