Mar 8, 2018

Facing investor pressure, Duke Energy prepping climate report

Duke Energy's headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina. Photo: Davis Turner/Getty Images

HOUSTON — One of America’s largest utility companies, Duke Energy, is set to release a report later this month that sketches a drastically changed electricity mix in a carbon-constrained future.

The big picture: Duke is the latest energy company to commit to releasing a report about climate change in response to investor pressure conveyed by non-binding but symbolically important shareholder resolutions. Duke provides electricity to more than seven million customers in the Carolinas, the Midwest and Florida.

Gritty details: The report is expected to find that coal, currently 33% of Duke’s mix, gone entirely from its portfolio by 2050 in a future scenario where the world has taken steps to cut greenhouse gas emissions to a level consistent with keeping global temperatures from rising two degrees Celsius. That’s the big ambition of the 2015 Paris climate deal, but the current commitments aren’t close to reaching that.

What they're saying: “What’s difficult about this is we are trying to overlay what we understand currently about technology,” Lynn Good, Duke CEO, told Axios in an interview on the sidelines of a major energy conference here.

She went on to say that this scenario of zero coal by 2050 doesn’t assume any breakthroughs in technology that captures carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants. “We don’t see that technology today, and we need to make economic decisions to get those units moving and replacing them with natural gas.”

Good also stressed the benefits of its several nuclear power plants, which emit no carbon emissions. She said Duke isn’t considering investing in new nuclear plants, but plans to seek federal relicensing of current plants.

“If I turn them off, the resource that would replace them today is natural gas, so carbon will go up,” Good said. “Our objective is to continue to keep those plants as long as possible.”

What’s next: A spokesman said the other details of their 2050 scenario estimates will be available when the report is officially released by month’s end.

Go deeper: Wall Street is starting to care about climate change

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Bernie's path to the presidency

Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks yesterday during a rally at Houston University. Photo: Mark Felix/AFP via Getty Images

Lots of Democrats are in full panic that Bernie Sanders will win the nomination and get clobbered in the general election — and bring the party down, too. But the evidence, particularly the polling, doesn't back those doomsday warnings.

Why it matters: Virtually every national and swing state poll shows Sanders tied with or beating President Trump.  And, unlike every rival, he has a huge base of fervent, unshakable supporters he can only grow.

These swing voters don't like Trump’s environmental rollbacks

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Swing voters in four battleground states decisively oppose President Trump’s sweeping rollbacks of environmental regulations — but it’s unlikely to sway their votes.

Why it matters: It’s voters living in states like these, including Florida and Pennsylvania, who fill pivotal roles electing America’s presidents, so we should listen.

Focus group: What some Florida swing voters think of Bloomberg

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Chesnot/Getty Contributor

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Some swing voters here are unbothered by the way Michael Bloomberg is spending heaps of his own money to help him win the race — but they're split over whether they'd actually vote for the New York billionaire over President Trump.

Why it matters: Bloomberg is the only Democrat who was even slightly intriguing to these voters. They're happy with Trump and don't feel like they recognize the current Democratic Party relative to when they voted for Barack Obama.