In a sudden, unexpected burst of concern about how mandates of renewable energy harm its low-income customers, a Duke Energy executive testified Tuesday that aspects of the government-imposed schemes (mostly welcomed by public utilities) cost far more than they save, and said they are net job losers.
The admission, by Duke’s president for North Carolina (the company’s home state), came during a hearing of a state legislative commission on energy. The specific policy targeted by Paul Newton was the practice of net metering, in which individual homeowners who have installed solar panels are able to sell their electricity to a utility’s grid at the same full kilowatt-hour price that it is delivered to them from the grid.
Friday’s announcement by the Obama administration that it will allow wind energy companies to kill certain bird species for 30 years without legal ramifications shows that its $1 million paltry fine of Duke Energy for avian slayings a week earlier was just for show.
Slamming the president for the application of double standards, not enforcing laws it doesn’t like, and acting unilaterally without Congressional authority is nothing new. It’s not often, though, you see such an obvious policy contradiction appear within such a short period of time. And now, without need to worry about re-election, he can pit his environmental constituencies against each other (wildlife protection vs. green energy promotion).
Last week’s punishment/settlement between the Department of Justice and Duke Energy over bird deaths caused by its wind turbines gives evidence that the Obama administration needed a scapegoat, to defuse accusations that it applies a double-standard in enforcement of wildlife laws.
The Friday before Thanksgiving both parties announced that Duke would pay $1 million for the deaths of more than 160 birds that are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The incidents occurred over the last four years at two Wyoming sites operated by the utility’s Duke Energy Renewables subsidiary.
Duke Energy’s “green” initiative to gasify coal for allegedly “cleaner” burning at its Edwardsport, Ind. power plant has already been vilified for cronyism, corruption, conflicts of interest, cost overruns, delays, waste, and mismanagement, but at least it became operational in June.
For six days.
The so-called “clean coal” project that was intended to have a carbon dioxide capture-and-storage component suffered breakdowns that left it inoperative on June 13, almost a week after Duke’s formal announcement that Edwardsport was on line, and only a day after the nation’s largest utility showed media members around the plant. The Indianapolis Starbroke the news on Friday.
President Obama’s speech last week that re-emphasized his commitment to reduce US carbon dioxide emissions brought dismay to those who appreciate affordable energy, but it sparked a celebration among corporate types who have long sought caps and taxes on CO2.
While it was still more words from the president, which don’t always match his actions, on CO2 limitation he has largely kept his promise to environmentalists. Critics slammed his plan to bypass Congress and to task the Environmental Protection Agency to curb emissions via executive order, but EPA has operated out of bounds since he was inaugurated in 2009 – especially with the “war against coal” that is now universally accepted as true.
Now that he’s been forced out as chairman and CEO of Duke Energy, James Rogers is apparently looking for something else to do, and may now be more receptive to the idea of becoming President Obama’s next Secretary of Energy.
The new speculation, primarily from the Charlotte Business Journal, which is based in Duke’s home city, arose following an interview that Rogers did with Bloomberg News while at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Whereas Rogers used to routinely dismiss suggestions that he might be up for a cabinet post, when asked this time by Bloomberg reporter Tom Keene what he would bring to the job if the president asked him to serve, he was unhesitant.
A data center in western North Carolina built by Apple, Inc. has now doubled the size of its associated power-generating fuel cell facility, one which in April NLPC reported was a conflict of interest for Apple director and former Vice President Al Gore.
Major technology companies such as Google, Facebook and eBay build these massive server farms to support services such as cloud computing, but in an effort to pacify environmentalists about their enormous energy use, many go to great lengths to make these facilities appear “green.” They’re not.
The departure follows the saga that was the merger between Charlotte, NC-based Duke and Raleigh, NC-based Progress Energy, which was completed in June – sort of. After the North Carolina Utilities Commission delivered the final regulatory approval it needed, Duke’s board ousted former Progress head Bill Johnson. Throughout the nearly 18-month process the pending partner companies proclaimed Johnson would be the CEO of the new combined Duke, with Rogers moving up to chairman, but the directors schemed in the final months of negotiations and then sprung the firing on Johnson only hours after they congratulated him on his new position.
As the North Carolina Utilities Commission tries to make sense of the farcical events that surround its approval of the merger of Duke Energy and Progress Energy into the largest public electricity company in the nation, the deeper they dig, the dumber Duke looks.
Yesterday the 6-member panel (one seat is unfilled due to political wrangling) heard from former Progress CEO Bill Johnson (pictured). Throughout the 18-month merger process the two companies proclaimed to anyone who cared – including federal regulators, utilities commissions in at least six states, and Wall Street – that Johnson would carry that role over to the combined company, while former Duke CEO James Rogers would elevate to chairman.