CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Duke Energy will invest heavily in cleaner power, natural gas infrastructure and the energy grid during the next 10 years, CEO Lynn Good told investors during the company's first online shareholder meeting today.
The switch to an online meeting made it easier for shareholders worldwide to participate, without the expense and time required to travel to Charlotte.
"The new format gave small shareholders like me, who live outside Charlotte, a chance to participate in the meeting for the first time," said long-time Duke Energy shareholder Lester Schwartzman of Boynton Beach, Fla. "The webcast allowed me to hear directly from Lynn Good about the company's strategy, and I was really happy to hear about the investments in the natural gas business."
Good fielded 14 shareholder questions, submitted before and during the meeting. The company soon will post on its website a response to each question submitted.
Cleaner energy through renewables, natural gas
Duke Energy will invest $11 billion to generate cleaner energy through renewables and natural gas as it moves to a low-carbon future, Good told shareholders.
"By retiring coal plants and bringing on more natural gas and renewables, we have already reduced our carbon emissions by nearly 30 percent since 2005. Today, we are among the top five companies in terms of renewable capacity, and we are committed to doing more," she said.
"We have set a new goal to reduce our carbon emissions by 40 percent from the 2005 level by 2030."
Natural gas is expected to increase to 35 percent of the company's electricity generation portfolio during the next 10 years, while renewable energy – such as solar, wind and hydro – will grow to approximately 10 percent, she said.
Modernizing nation's largest energy grid
Meanwhile, Duke Energy's planned $25-billion modernization of its energy grid – the largest grid in the U.S. and "a critical part" of the nation's infrastructure – will provide "improved reliability and the services customers expect," Good said.
"The cornerstone of our comprehensive grid investment is Power/Forward Carolinas, our $13-billion plan to upgrade and strengthen our system in North Carolina."
The grid investments also will enable higher levels of renewable energy, she said.
Infrastructure to meet growing natural gas demand
Duke Energy's natural gas business also will play a key role in the company's future, Good said.
"We're expanding our natural gas infrastructure to supply our plants and customers with this cleaner fuel.
"With Piedmont in the fold, we now operate a five-state gas distribution business and have investments in natural gas pipelines that will supply customers in the eastern United States. Through these investments, we will double the earnings contribution of our natural gas business by 2026," she said.
Good called 2016 "a pivotal year" for the company as it advanced its "transformation" into the future "while providing customers safe, reliable energy."
Duke Energy's 2016 sale of its Latin American assets and acquisition of Piedmont Natural Gas – key components of the company's portfolio transition – will help ensure future financial strength and stable earnings growth, she said.
"With our portfolio transition complete, today's Duke Energy operates as a premier, regulated energy company, focused on delivering value for our customers and growth for our investors."
Customer service and customer satisfaction also continue to rank among the company's top priorities, Good said.
"We're focused on creating smarter solutions" that give customers "more control and convenience.
"We're connecting with customers through new tools like outage alerts and usage updates. We're also offering free home energy audits and a menu of energy-saving tips, programs and incentives. And this is just the start."
The company knows "that every dollar counts," she said. "I'm proud to say that Duke Energy's electric rates were below the national average across our six states, and we're committed to efficient operations to keep bills low."
Economic engine, community leader
The company also continues to serve as an economic engine in the communities and states it serves – in 2016, helping to attract $4.1 billion in capital investment that led to the creation of more than 14,000 jobs, Good said.
In addition, the company remains an active community leader and financial contributor through the Duke Energy Foundation.
"In 2016, our total charitable giving was over $53 million," she said.
Shareholders reject 3 proposals
Also at today's meeting, shareholders rejected three non-binding shareholder proposals – none of which received a majority of shares voted, as required to pass:
- "Shareholder proposal regarding providing an annual report on Duke Energy's lobbying expenses."
- "Shareholder proposal regarding providing a report on the public health risk of Duke Energy's coal use."
- "Shareholder proposal regarding preparing an assessment of the impacts on Duke Energy's portfolio of climate change consistent with a two degree scenario."
Separately, a binding company-sponsored corporate governance proposal was not approved after failing to receive 80 percent of total outstanding shares, as required: "Amendment to the Amended and Restated Certificate of Incorporation of Duke Energy Corporation to eliminate supermajority requirements."
Details about the three shareholder proposals and the company-sponsored proposal appear in the company's 2017 proxy statement – https://www.duke-energy.com/_/media/pdfs/our-company/investors/de-annual-reports/2016/2017proxystatement.pdf
Shareholders also elected the 14 board of director nominees, with each receiving at least 93 percent of the shares voted.
About Duke Energy
Headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., Duke Energy is one of the largest energy holding companies in the United States. Its Electric Utilities and Infrastructure business unit serves approximately 7.5 million customers located in six states in the Southeast and Midwest. The company's Gas Utilities and Infrastructure business unit distributes natural gas to approximately 1.6 million customers in the Carolinas, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. Its Commercial Renewables business unit operates a growing renewable energy portfolio across the United States.
Duke Energy is a Fortune 125 company traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol DUK. More information about the company is available at duke-energy.com.
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Contact: Dave Scanzoni