Rogers Staying in Energy Game for Next Five Years

Duke Energy’s Jim Rogers has spent 20-plus years as a CEO in the energy industry (starting with PSI Energy in Plainfield in 1988). And despite his wife’s reaction of "what the heck were you thinking?," he acknowledged today at the Indiana Chamber’s Indiana Conference on Energy Management that he’s signed up for five more years.

"I love this industry," he told the conference attendees. And while he has seen many changes in his career, he adds, "The next five years are going to be more transformative for our industry than the last 20 have been."

Rogers shared 10 facts about the current and future energy outlook before answering numerous questions. Among his revelations:

  • By 2050, Duke will have to retire or replace virtually every power plant it is operating today
  • The company is the third largest generator of both coal and nuclear energy. It is currently building new coal and natural gas facilities, has two nuclear proposals being reviewed and is also active in various areas of renewables
  • While there will always be skeptics, he says the majority of scientists have spoken in favor of climate change and that he is a believer

Rogers thinks that the cap and trade legislation that passed the House earlier in the summer "will be improved by the Senate to minimize the cost impact to consumers. The transition, however, is not going to be free, not going to be easy and not going to be quick. It will take decades to make the transition, but we have to get to work on it now. Our mission has changed. We have to modernize and decarbonize our fleet to help our communities become the most energy efficient in the world."

Rogers’ take on three other issues:

  • China: "They’re moving fast. The reality is that China gets it. They’re the number one producer of solar panels; number one producer of wind turbines. They have 14 nuclear plants under construction. That’s why we’re partnering with them. We want to move at China time."
  • Industry employment: "Real jobs are going to be created if we rebuild the nuclear industry in the United States. There are no such things as green jobs; every job is a green job. It’s all about improving productivity and becoming more efficient. Let’s quit trying to draw lines."
  • Smart grid and energy efficiency: "I believe this will turn out to be the greatest enabler, and I can’t even envision today what it will enable." He explains that while Duke and other companies are currently focused on generation of power to the meter, the future includes writing software for specific energy uses. "Our energy efficiency will be driven by technology. The same way you throw the switch today and the lights come on, you will throw the switch and it will optimize your use of energy. The boundaries of our business are being fundamentally redrawn."

The Gray Area of Green: Green Jobs Discussion Should Focus on Reality, Not Buzzwords

A brief but to-the-point column from Governing’s Christopher Swope attempts to inject some reality into the green jobs discussion. He notes that while it makes for admirable rhetoric to tout "green jobs," one must look deeper than a label to determine if a green job is actually green:

Suddenly, everyone is talking about "green jobs." Task forces in Connecticut, Minnesota and New Mexico, among other states, are looking at how to attract, create and retain them. Meanwhile, the U.S. Conference of Mayors has been trumpeting a report predicting 4.2 million new green jobs over the next 30 years.

That sounds nice. But what exactly is a green job? It’s a maddeningly difficult question to answer. There’s more hype than there is good research on the subject, and just about any claim anyone wants to make seems to stick.

That’s unfortunate. Because throwing around wild numbers masks where the real economic opportunities are. For example, manufacturing and installing wind turbines would create brand-new job markets in a country that never really has had much of a wind-power industry. But most of the jobs that get labelled "green" these days are positions that already exist and bear only tangential relationships to the environment. A study done for the state of Colorado counts some Wal-Mart employees as green, because a percentage of the products the retailer sells are Energy Star-certified. Cashiers, janitors, accountants, secretaries, lawyers, even government officials — all can be "green workers" if their work touches energy efficiency in almost any way.

Not that using less electricity and putting people to work aren’t worthy goals. But rather than chasing buzzwords, policy makers should recruit specific industries that have realistic chances of success in their states. When you dig into the numbers being touted on green jobs, you find a lot fewer photovoltaic specialists and geothermal engineers — and a lot more cashiers and truck drivers — than you may want.