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A Conversation With Katherine Neebe of Duke Energy On the Evolving Role of the CSO

by Robert G. Eccles

A Conversation With Katherine Neebe of Duke Energy On the Evolving Role of the CSO

by Robert G. Eccles

Published 10-11-23

Submitted by Duke Energy

Katherine Neebe, Chief Sustainability Officer, Duke Energy | © THE MACHINE PHOTOGRAPHY

Originally published by Robert G. Eccles

Neebe: One of the reasons I came to Duke Energy is because we are leading one of the largest clean energy transitions in the country. Our mission is to power the lives of our customers and the vitality of our local communities. As energy demand doubles and possibly triples by 2050 across our service territory, we need to significantly grow energy generation, retire 16 gigawatts (GW) of coal, and modernize the energy grid. We need to do that in a way that provides reliable, affordable, and accessible energy while also meeting our net-zero ambition. The engineering, environmental, and social considerations to achieve this are significant. But there’s a real upside to the story too. As we look at our 10-year $145 billion capital spending plan, we anticipate that our clean energy transition is expected to bring roughly $250 billion in positive economic outputs, from job creation to property taxes. 

But those benefits aren’t all future focused. For example, our economic development team continues to be successful in attracting growing companies to the communities we serve. In 2022 alone, the team secured 89 projects resulting in more than 29,000 new jobs and over $23 billion in capital investments. In addition, our supply chain spend is also an important avenue for strengthening local economies. Last year we spent $14 billion overall on supplier goods and services, more than $5 billion with local suppliers and over $1.8 billion with diverse suppliers.

Eccles: Let’s dig in a little on the energy industry. Duke Energy has ambitious climate goals. How are you driving change in your role?

Neebe: We have net-zero from electric generation goals by 2050 for Scope 1, 2, and certain Scope 3 carbon emissions and net-zero methane goal by 2030 for our natural gas business unit. That means that 95% of our calculated GHG footprint, from our own emissions to those across our value chain, is now encompassed in a net-zero goal. In 2022, we took additional steps toward action on climate change by targeting energy generated by coal to represent less than 5% of total generation by 2030 and to fully exit coal by 2035 as part of the largest planned coal fleet retirement in the industry. To date, Duke Energy has already seen a 44% reduction in Scope 1 carbon emissions from electricity generation since 2005.

With our net-zero goals established, we also need to consider the social issues affiliated with the clean energy transition from the impact of coal plant retirements (also known as the just transition) to where we site and build new infrastructure (including topics such as environmental justice and NIMBYism) to guardrails for those low-income customers who may be struggling with meeting basic needs. Again, I’d reinforce that there is a net positive economic upside to our clean energy transition; our role is to manage the risks and the value creation in a way that is balanced for our customers and communities.

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Duke Energy

Duke Energy

Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK), a Fortune 150 company headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., is one of America’s largest energy holding companies. Its electric utilities serve 8.2 million customers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky, and collectively own 50,000 megawatts of energy capacity. Its natural gas unit serves 1.6 million customers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Ohio and Kentucky. The company employs 27,600 people.

Duke Energy is executing an ambitious clean energy transition to achieve its goals of net-zero methane emissions from its natural gas business by 2030 and net-zero carbon emissions from electricity generation by 2050. The company has interim carbon emission targets of at least 50% reduction from electric generation by 2030, 50% for Scope 2 and certain Scope 3 upstream and downstream emissions by 2035, and 80% from electric generation by 2040. In addition, the company is investing in major electric grid enhancements and energy storage, and exploring zero-emission power generation technologies such as hydrogen and advanced nuclear.

Duke Energy was named to Fortune’s 2023 “World’s Most Admired Companies” list and Forbes’ “World’s Best Employers” list. More information is available at The Duke Energy News Center contains news releases, fact sheets, photos and videos. Duke Energy’s illumination features stories about people, innovations, community topics and environmental issues. Follow Duke Energy on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook.

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