By Gabriel Weinstein
Duke Energy Corporation President and CEO James Rogers affirmed his company’s commitment to energy efficiency and addressed Appalachia’s future challenges in switching to clean energy technology in his keynote address Tuesday at the 2009 Appalachian Regional Commission Conference at Ohio University’s Baker University Center.
Rogers said the economic future of Ohio depends on developing green jobs and a healthy, more advanced infrastructure. Although Rogers said large and costly changes are needed for the U.S. and Appalachian areas to stay economically competitive, he is confident that the right changes will be made.
“In ten years we will look back on our [current] energy efficiency and realize how primitive it was,” Rogers said.
Duke Energy’s main sustainability objective is to reduce its carbon emissions by investing in solar, wind, biomass, nuclear and clean coal technology. Such changes will at once reduce environmental harm and help revitalize Appalachia, Rogers said. Creating the technology necessary for decarbonization will “stimulate growth and create jobs.”
To illustrate his point, Rogers pointed to recent Duke Energy projects, such as a more efficient Ohio power grid and the new Piketon power plant.
“The Piketon plant will not only create thousands of construction jobs, but [long-term] careers that 700-800 people could live on,” he said. “These types of projects are how we can rebuild the middle class.”
Rogers was adamant that, though solutions for energy efficiency and green energy employment exist, the lack of the technological infrastructure is preventing alternative energy development. The current lack of nuclear technology construction materials is causing the U.S. to fall behind other nations such as China.
“We’ve got to get on it,” Rogers said. “At the end of the day, they’ll have the supply chain, and we won’t have it.”
While Rogers was optimistic about the potential for green energy technology, he did warn the audience that the full transition to green energy technology would be long, costly and difficult.
“Let me say it you in a kind of a blunt way,” Rogers said. “[Switching to alternative energy is] not going to be cheap. It’s going to raise prices. It’s not going to be quick. … We’ve got to be committed … and realize it’s going to take multiple decades to transform our power grid.”