Duke Energy executive Jennifer Weber says the power company will focus on working with state officials on how to implement the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan as it considers whether to challenge the program.
“That is under consideration,” she said. “But for now we are leaving that aside to work with our states on what compliance looks like.”
Weber, Duke’s executive vice president of external affairs and strategic policy, was in Washington Wednesday to speak on a panel organized by the Progressive Policy Institute.
PPI used the discussion of private investment to outline the results of its new report, “U.S. Investment Heroes of 2015,” which identifies 25 large companies — including Duke — that are bucking the trend of what PPI sees as an “investment drought” in the United States.
Weber told the audience the principal drivers for investment at Duke are changes in what customers expect from their power companies, new technology and the opportunities it creates, and public policy.
After the event, she spoke with the Charlotte Business Journal in a telephone interview.
Weber said taxes remain a key public-policy issue for capital-intensive companies such as Duke. She said lower state and federal rates would spur investment. So would a revamping of federal taxes on repatriating money that U.S. companies earn overseas for investment in the United States.
She also said policymakers should always consider what can be accomplished by market forces without regulation. She contends the current low cost of natural gas and the rapid drop in the costs of solar and other renewable-energy sources occurred largely in the absence of new regulation.
So, she said, the more the Clean Power Plan can rely on those kind of market forces, the more successful it will be.
On new technology, she cited advancements in renewables and battery storage as key innovations. Duke utilities are investing in building solar plants in North Carolina and Florida. She also said government polices to encourage investment in research and development would be helpful.
On changing customer expectations, she cited demand for more billing options and for greater access to buying clean energy. “We are looking for new energy services in which we could be energy advisers for our customers,” she said.
Some of those services may be offered as part of the services Duke already provides customers. Others will likely be offered as premium services, which customers can pay for separately.
Weber says Duke has no timetable on when it will decide whether to challenge the Clean Power Plan. She notes it is a comprehensive and complex regulatory plan.
The plan sets separate requirements for every state and instructs the states to propose the methods for achieving them.
Duke operates in six states — the Carolinas, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio — and must consider the impact on its operations in each state as it decides whether to object to the plan.
John Downey covers the energy industry and public companies for the Charlotte Business Journal.