The challenges of providing reliable and affordable supplies of electricity in the U.S., not to mention cleaner forms of power, have been evident recently with the rash of unusually cold weather in Texas. Millions of Texans were left without power and drinkable water for days as the state’s grid nearly collapsed.
And as worries grow over the frequency and intensity of big storms, the power sector as well as policymakers in Washington and the states are looking more closely at steps needed to assure the reliability of the grid even as climate change makes these events more worrisome.
In this edition of Columbia Energy Exchange, host Bill Loveless is joined by Lynn Good, the chair, president and CEO of Duke Energy, one of America’s largest energy holding companies, with more than 7 million electric power customers in the Southeast and Midwest and nearly 2 million natural gas customers in five states.
Bill reached Lynn at Duke Energy’s headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina, to talk about the situation in Texas and what it might mean for utilities in other states, as well as her company’s goal of providing electricity with net-zero emissions by 2050, a target well short of the 2035 mark for that achievement set by President Biden and congressional Democrats.
Lynn and Bill touched as well on the similarities and differences in the cleaner-energy positions of the Biden administration and the power sector, and how she thinks the conversation could proceed to find some agreement on policies that would support a carbon-free power sector as soon as possible.
Lynn has been Duke Energy’s CEO since 2013, having served previously as the company’s chief financial officer and a leader of its commercial energy business. She began her utility career in 2003 with Cincinnati-based Cinergy, which merged with Duke Energy three years later. Prior to that, she was a partner at two international accounting firms, including a long career with Arthur Andersen.
Bill Loveless: Hello and welcome to the Columbia Energy Exchange, a weekly podcast from the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. From Washington, I’m Bill Loveless. The challenges of providing reliable and affordable supplies of electricity in the U.S., not to mention cleaner forms of power have been evident recently with rash of unusually cold weather in Texas. Millions of Texans were left without power and drinkable water for a day as this state’s grid nearly collapsed. And as worries grow over the frequency and intensity of big storms, the power sector as well as policymakers in Washington and the states are looking more closely at steps needed to assure the reliability of the grid even as climate change makes these events more worrisome.
Among the industry leaders grappling with these issues is Lynn Good, the Chair, President and CEO of Duke Energy, one of America’s largest energy holding companies. In all Duke Energy, has more than seven million electric power customers in the Southeast and Midwest, and nearly two million natural gas customers in five states. I reached Lynn, at Duke Energy’s headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina, to talk about the situation in Texas. And what it might mean for utilities in other states, as well as her company’s goal of providing electricity with net-zero emissions by 2050. A target well short of the 2035 mark for that achievement set by President Biden, and congressional Democrats. We touched as well on the similarities and differences in the cleaner-energy positions of the Biden administration and the power sector.
And how she thinks the conversation could proceed to find some agreement on policies that would support a carbon-free power sector as soon as possible. Lynn has been Duke Energy’s CEO since 2013, having served previously as the company’s Chief Financial Officer. And the leader in its Commercial Energy Business. She began her utility career in 2003 with Cincinnati-based Cinergy, which merged with Duke Energy three years later. Prior to that she was a partner at two international accounting firms, including a long career with Arthur Andersen. Well, here is our conversation, I hope you enjoy it. Lynn Good, welcome to Columbia Energy Exchange.
Lynn Good: Thank you, Bill, it’s a pleasure to be with you today.
Bill Loveless: Well there is so much to discuss, there is so much going on right now. But before we begin, I always like to start by asking our guest a little bit about themselves. And so, if you could tell us a little bit about your career and how your past experiences have made you what you are today?
Lynn Good: Sure, Bill, I’m a Midwesterner. So I started my career in the Midwest, with the financial background, actually in public accounting with the firm called Arthur Anderson. And I spent maybe 20 years in that field, I was a partner at the the firm and then, moved into the energy industry. Of course, had been a financial cap, I became the CFO at Duke Energy and then, the CEO, following that job. So, I would say I’m grounded in finance, but I’ve always had a love for this industry. There is a really clear mission to serve customers all seasons, all hours, it’s a mission-oriented group of employees here at Duke Energy, very committed to the role that we play in the economy and it’s really an honor to lead Duke Energy.
Bill Loveless: Well, it seems numbers have always been a fascination for you, perhaps that’s something you got from your dad, whom I read, was a Math Teacher?
Lynn Good: He was. There is a lot of math in my family. And I have two sons; one of whom is an Applied Math major, and one of whom is an Engineer. So, I’ve managed to pass it along, Bill.
Bill Loveless: And you ought to become an auditor as you mentioned, and not a field known at the time as all that receptive for woman?
Lynn Good: It was maybe starting to turn, Bill, at the time I came into the field. I wouldn’t say it was 50:50, it was probably still maybe 30 percent female, 70 percent male. But that has changed overtime. It certainly has and all of the firms in the 90s, took a real focus on how do we retain women, how we do develop women into leadership roles, how do we deal with the issues that come with their life transition and children and other things. And I’m really proud of the work that was done at that time among the firms, and I think corporate America has embraced that along the way, and it’s important as we really strive for more diversity, that we recognize there are lives outside of the workplace that have an impact on our employees. And that’s never been clearer than in 2020, when you think about COVID and social unrest and other things. We need to recognize all of that, because it impacts our employees, and we want to create an environment where they feel comfortable and included.
Bill Loveless: Well, as you mentioned, there have been so many events over this past year with COVID. It’s almost a year now since it was declared a pandemic. And that’s had a tremendous impact on us all, and then, of course, change in government here in Washington, but even more recently, we’ve seen rolling blackouts from severe cold weather in Texas and other states that effected millions of people and raised questions about the reliability of the electric power grid. California experience similar blackouts in the summer, when temperatures soared in that state, and it’s been said that climate crisis requires us to begin to plan for the unimaginable. Do you think that’s a fair statement and if so, how does a CEO like yourself do that?
Lynn Good: It’s a really good question, Bill, because when you look at some of these events, I think we would have described them as tail events, we would have described them as 100 years events, and I think all of us were beginning to question if they’re coming much more rapidly than that. I’d live in the Hurricane zone, in the Southeast and we have had just a number of hurricanes over the last five years. And so as we think about the system that we run, and we think about the fact that our customers are counting on it 24/7, seven days a week, all seasons, we have to include in our planning and how do we make it more resilient and we have to elevate the conversation around reliability. And that conversation is also reframed when we’re moving aggressively to lower carbon, we also care about the environment. And so trying to find that balance between environment and reliability and affordability is a part of our strategic planning and conversation at Duke all the time. And I wouldn’t say we have all the answers, Bill, but we are doing a lot more scenario planning than we might have done 10 years ago on how do we find that right balance, how do we continue to progress across all of those elements, that are requiring more and more of our system and more and more of our people. And so, I think it will be an ongoing conversation.
Bill Loveless: Yeah. I mean, do these recent events change at all, you’re thinking about reliability in the face of these incidents?
Lynn Good: No, we have always felt strong with the reliability has to be a part of the equation, because we are there when customers don’t have power. We know what that feels like, and what I would say is, if we look at Texas in particular, we’re taking moment to do a complete root cause analysis, are we weatherized as much as we want to be, what about gas supply, what can be learn from renewable operation. And we operate in different markets, markets that have a longer term planning for horizon, markets that have more import and export capability, but I still think there is a moment here for us to learn as an industry and for us learn at Duke Energy, how can we prepare, what can we learn from these events, so that we are prepared in the event of extreme weather. And I would say after every hurricane, we do the same thing, what did we learn, where was the flooding, is there a better way we could dispatch sources? Are there investments we could have made or should be making now to make the next storm a little bit less impactful to our customers, because at the end of the day serving those customers is why we’re here, and we want them to count on us for reliability.
Bill Loveless: What have you done in response to past severe events big storms, hurricanes, to bolster your grid and how might that experience be a lesson, be informative helpful to those working on the grid in Texas, and those places?
Lynn Good: Sure, you know Bill, I would point to weatherization. And because we operate north and south, so we are in the Midwest as well as the Southeast, we experience the Polar Vortex in 2014, that had an extreme impacting and actually we had a new plant, but it just been commissioned around that time, and it gave us a chance to really focus on weatherization. And do we have the right investments and the right protection around our equipment so that we can absorb extreme weather. So, weatherization has been focus for us for a number of years. And the hurricane experience that’s hardening of the grid, that’s concrete poles, that self healing technologies so that we can isolate where problems are occurring that’s vegetation management, that’s aggressive in certain areas, that’s looking where substations maybe subject to flooding and making sure we’re protecting them or moving them in certain circumstances to other areas. So, it’s a comprehensive review of how our system is impacted by weather and what changes can we make? I would also say we have dual fuel capability here in our system for the reasons that you may think about where a particular commodity could be challenged in to an extreme event, to give us flexibility so that these assets will be available. So that’s another investment that we’ve made and really learned from as we’ve had some challenging weather events.
Bill Loveless: There’s lessons here too for the regulators, whether they are at the state level or the federal level. And, of course, Texas has a very different situation, because it’s an island with its own grid, called ERCOT, but nevertheless, there is still some – there is quite a self examination going on in Texas among regulators and state officials, and at the federal level, the federal energy regulatory commission is looking at what it might do. I mean do you think there’s new legitimate steps these regulators could take or policymakers could take to help assure reliability in the face of these intense storms?
Lynn Good: I think there would be a lot of learnings, Bill. And I think, there is a lot of finger pointing going on whether it’s renewables or fossil or market structure. And I think if we take a step back from that and really analyze, how can we do this better? How can we ensure we have adequate capacity; how do we make sure that weatherization is occurring in the right way? Is there a way to improve import capability? I think all of those things will be analyzed. And what I have found in this industry is, because it can be dynamic, right? Hurricane, Ice Storm, Wildfires in California and other places, there are plenty of opportunities for us to step back. And if we do so, with the learning mindset and with the mindset that we’re going to really make improvements for the customers, I do think, improvements can be made across the board and we should have an open mind to those changes.
Bill Loveless: Amidst all this of course we have the pandemic as we mentioned before, has our experience with this awful disease, made you think any differently about public attitudes about existential crises like climate change?
Lynn Good: It’s an interesting one Bill, because in my view, climate change has been a growing conversation among our customers, not policymakers for some time. I don’t know that I would directly relate the pandemic to something that says now they believe more deeply that climate change is an issue. I think that issue has been growing in the minds of our constituents for some time. I do think the pandemic is another illustration of a tail event, we wouldn’t sat here two years ago and said, “Wow! We need to be planning for pandemic.”
But I do believe the way we’ve responded to it, in our industry and in Duke Energy gives me confidence that we know how to respond when something unforeseen comes up on us. And the safety culture, that we have here a Duke, safety all the times, safety first, not only for our employees, but the environment and our customers was the foundation that we built upon, to put personal protective equipment in place, social distancing in place, a variety – masking, variety of other tools that we needed to use in order to address the pandemic. And the employee base has just responded extraordinarily well. Think about the way we respond to storms. We had to rethink the way we housed and fed people, because we can’t use the same density and approach, if you think about the way we’ve conducted outages at nuclear plants, where we would bring 1000 people on site to work, during a refueling outage, all of that had to be adapted and adjusted during the pandemic and the team did so with excellence.
So, it gives me confidence that is, these obstacles come forward in the future if we keep our eye on the foundational elements of safety for our employees, keeping our customers served in a reliable way, that we can adjust. And it’s just an environment that’s ever changing and we have to be willing to adapt with it.
Bill Loveless: Well, speaking of climate change, Duke has some plans for emissions reductions that intends to reach net zero carbon by 2050, he has doing in a number of investor-owned utilities in the United States and the company plans to cut emissions 50% low 2005 levels by 2030. It crossed a milestone in 2020, as I understand it, surpassing 40% carbon reduction from those 2005 levels, and you seem confident you are poised to hit more milestones in coming years. But, it comes at a time when, as President Biden wants the power sector to hit this zero carbon emissions by 2035. Is that possible?
Lynn Good: Bill, I would step back just from a moment and say that we have been committed to a reducing carbon for some time, and I’m proud of the 40% reduction. But we put our goal of at least 50% by 2030, it was, as a result of a lot of work to balance environmental, reduction in carbon with reliability and with affordability. Affordability is important. We serve a lot of manufacturing, we serve low income, we serve everyone in the areas that we serve. And so, keeping that balance is important. So, when you talk about going faster, that balances changes. And I think about 2035, as we run our system and think about what would be necessary to go faster on carbon reduction. We would need to put technologies in place sooner, advanced technologies.
Things like advanced nuclear, offshore wind, we would be hoping for breakthroughs in battery storage, longer duration storage, carbons capture progressing, because we do not see a way to get a net zero without these new technologies. So, I never want to bet against our ability to innovate and change and for technology development, but I think we have to recognize, that if we go faster, there is a need for technology to come sooner, the ability to put it at scale, the ability for it to be cost competitive, so that we can continue to make progress in a way that maintains that reliability and affordability. We talk about the need for technology as being zero emitting, load following resources. It needs to have different attributes than just wind and sore.
Bill Loveless: What do you mean by load following?
Lynn Good: So, that I can move it when the demands of my customers change. So, think about our experience in Texas, really cold, lots of power usage, what tools do I have to match that power usage? That’s where things like natural gas have served that role today. If we’re going to constrain carbon, my natural gas probably needs carbon capture to meet that requirement or I am going to need longer duration storage, I need something other than just moving power by hours, I might need to move it by days or weeks, store enough to be able to meet that.
Advanced nuclear, some of the advanced nuclear has the ability to store power. And then discharge it on to the grid when needed. But those technologies, at least advanced nuclear for example, is not intended to be at demonstration level, until probably 2035. So, to get it commercial and at scale by 2035 we’ve got to accelerate that advancement. So, we’re anxious to be at the table, Bill, and have these conversations. I think partnership collaboration, choices around technology and pace and price and all of these things are just important conversations for us to have and we’re having them at the state level, anxious to happen with the administration as well.
Bill Loveless: Well, recently you told Time magazine that, you felt the company is well positioned to work with the administration and the new Congress and will look for ways to accelerate advanced plants in the interest of your customers. What makes Duke well positioned and where does the discussion between the government and the power sector go from here?
Lynn Good: Well positioned, Bill, because we’ve done our homework here. We know what we believe it takes to provide the reliable service in an affordable way and given my mix of resources that I own today, how do I get carbon out of them. I also think our demonstrated track record, the fact that we’ve add 40% means that we’ve been able to make progress in an affordable way and are committed to do that.
We have a clear line of sight on how to get there by 2030 and we’re in the conversation about the need for research and development and it happened for a couple years, really pointing to the types of technologies that we need. And so, how do we engage? We engage in conversations with policy makers, with the regulators, with the administration, and its occurring not only at the federal level, Bill, but at the state level.
Our states are also active, they have goals and you think about North Carolina in particular our governor has a goal of at least 70% reduction by 2030. And we have been in conversation here in the state with a variety of scenarios sharing what it would take to get to 70% and there are choices in those areas, around technology, around pace. And that’s exactly I think what needs to happen, in order for us to make good decisions and good progress.
Bill Loveless: You’ve also spoken of the need for a politically durable, national energy and climate policy. One that you said would take an economy-wide approach to carbon emissions. What would it take to make that possible?
Lynn Good: I think it can come at couple of different ways, Bill, the states are moving, the states are moving with whether its regulations or legislation or policy. And I would expect the Biden administration to move as well, we could see action out of EPA. We can see action through legislation. There’s a lots of discussion around a clean energy standard, I think as infrastructure bills are put together and there could be discussion around, things like electric vehicle infrastructure, which is also a carbon tool.
So, I think it can come a variety of ways and those were really the conversations, that we are anxious and are a part of at the Federal and state level to really shape this in a way that meets our objectives for the environment and also the objectives for reliability and affordability.
Bill Loveless: Yeah. There was a bill introduced in the house by Democrats the other day, that calls for this same target that the President has called for, for carbon free electricity by 2035. It includes a federal clean energy standard requiring utilities to meet that goal. Do you think a clean energy standard maybe the answer?
Lynn Good: I think it’s one of the tools, Bill. When we talk about policy, we talk about a market-based policy, a clean energy standard is one of those tools. And what it does is basically set out how to implement a goal to get carbon reduction to occur at a pace that make sense. And so we’re anxious, the devil’s always in the details on these policies, and so we are engaged to talk about what we think the shape of that could take to achieve the objectives that we’re all striving for.
A price on carbon is another tool. And I think again that will be discussed and I would think about it in a comparable way, there are some pros and cons to a price on carbon versus the clean energy standard. And that’s where the collaboration needs to occur, Bill, in order to get to something that achieves durable objectives.
Bill Loveless: Right. As you’ve – in the face of these goals that your company has set and the progress it’s made so far, not surprisingly you still run across some complains from shareholders and others stakeholders as to, whether Duke Energy is ambitious enough with its nearer term goals and particular there is criticism that, there is an over-reliance on natural gas build-outs reaching into the 2030s.
Lynn Good: And, Bill, this is part of the conversation on how do we get there? The goals, I think there’s a lot of commonality on let’s gets carbon out, but then the discussion is what tools and techniques do we use. And so, what I might illustrate for you just for a moment is, if we look at the Carolinas, I’ve got a very strong nuclear fleet in the Carolinas produces over 50% of the power runs all the time, carbon free.
On the other end of the carbon free spectrum, I have a lot solar. North Carolina is third in the nation in installed solar capacity. Our solar resources are available about 20% of the time, of course, they are going to be aligned with when the sun is shining, which is generous here in the Carolinas in certain seasons. But then I have something in the middle and that’s something in the middle that balances, run all the time and run 20% of the time, is natural gas today.
And if you think about a February morning, so let’s do a Texas situation, it’s very cold. Our peak usage actually occurs in the winter time at the Carolinas. At 7:00 a.m. in the morning I don’t have any solar on the system. So, I’m meeting those needs, with my customers today with resources like natural gas. And so, I’m anxious, as are others to find another way to meet that need. But what I will not compromise, is meeting the needs of my customers.
We want them to have power when they need it, when they get up and turn on the coffee machine and make the lunch for their children. And so those technologies make it possible to serve load in every hour at scale, because I have millions of people counting on me to do this. That’s the conversation that we’re having and that’s where natural gas is filling a role to that.
Bill Loveless: You looked at different scenarios, I was reading back on your integrated resource plan which is the plans that utilities put together, as you know, but often case for others who maybe not be familiar with it, the rather extensive plans that utilities put together for to spell out to regulators how they intent to serve their market reliably and affordably and all that stuff. And the most recent IRP that Duke Energy did for the Carolinas, Carolina markets had various scenarios, some of them more ambitious than what the official policy is for carbon emissions reductions right now. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Lynn Good: Yes. And you know Bill this is exactly the conversation you and I are having around pace and choices of technologies in order to achieve carbon reduction. So, what we put together were six scenarios, one was the least cost standard. If I were to try to get as much carbon out as I possibly could at the least cost, that’s one scenario. And it achieves about a 55% reduction in carbon emissions between now and 2030. On the far end of carbon reduction, I’m at 70%, I’ve introduced either offshore wind or small modular nuclear, so I’ve moved up my scale on some different technologies and the price is high, because I’m bringing in technologies that are a little bit more expensive. Those are exactly the tradeoffs we should talk about.
And I think about offshore wind, what an extraordinary resource, I would love to have a wind resource, in between that solar and nuclear. But it takes time to accomplish that, the permitting for offshore wind, the transmission to get it from offshore to where people live in the Carolinas, which are west, I think Raleigh, Greensboro, Charlotte, that has to be considered and evaluated to achieve that goal and the small modular reactors are still in the development and licensing stage. That technology needs to mature. So those are – that’s a great conversations starter here in the Carolinas around are we prepared to make those choices, are we prepared to aggressively go after those technologies. Are we prepared for the implications to permitting, the implications to early-stage development on certain technologies, are we prepared for the price implications if we go faster? And it’s served as an incredibly valuable, so I think it will continue to be.
Bill Loveless: You hadn’t done that before.
Lynn Good: It’s the first time we did various scenarios. Usually we just present it, this the least cost option. And that’s what the regulations here on the Carolinas point you to, is at least cost option and we were involved in very comprehensive stakeholder process this year Bill, and took that feedback to put together a variety of scenarios. And it has proven to be a great tool and conversations starter here in the Carolinas.
Bill Loveless: And as I recall, one of the scenarios actually considered not adding any natural gas to the system, but that, that doing so would require keeping, well, I’m just looking up here 2200 megawatts of coal online through 2035, retiring those units when it would be mostly economic to do so. So you look at no new gas but –
Lynn Good: Yes, their implications to no new gas. And so, one of the issues indicated is that coal needs to run a bit longer for that reliability Bill to give us the opportunity to serve, load in different areas. It also has a lot more battery storage. And, batteries, prices are coming down, they’re becoming very valuable resources, but at the scale what’s in that scenario, we would really need to think through, are we prepared to do that operationally, is the supply chain ready for us to put that scale of batteries. I think in that scenario by 2040 or 2050, we have 30 times the amount of battery storage that exists today in the entire US.
So the other thing that is important to recognize as we talk about this transformation its really big stuff. It’s a lot of it, it’s a lot of money. And we want to make sure we are making wise choices and that we can operate the system in a way that’s reliable for our customers as we go through that transformation. It is that old analogy of changing the tires on the bus or changing the engine on the airplane, that’s really what we were doing, because that airplane, the reliability has to keep going, while we’re changing the way we do it, and we want to do that well.
Bill Loveless: Where is most of the pressure come these days for you to considered making some rather bold moves, is it primarily from investors, from the public, your customers?
Lynn Good: It’s an interesting question, Bill, because I’m not sure I would call it pressure. What I would call it is a keen interest in what progress we’re making. And our investors have a very clear eye around environment social and government’s issues, ESG as a growing a topic. But they want us to do it in a smart way, they understand that we are sustainable business, so the decisions we make today we need to be proud of 10 years from now. And so they want us to make progress, they want us to do the homework that we’ve been talking about, they want us to engage stakeholders, they want us to make wise choices, they want us to understand the risk to investors that we go to rapidly on unproven technology. So, I wouldn’t call it pressure, I would call it alignment around how fast to go and let’s talk about how to get there.
If you talk about stakeholders in our states, I do believe the environmental community is going to be more heavily focused on carbon reduction, our manufacturers are going to be more heavily focused on affordability, our low-income customers are going to be very focus on affordability. Our rural communities may introduce environmental justice, as the topic at they are interested in. And so you can picture a world of stakeholder engagement where you have a lot of different points of view at the table and that’s where the talking, the negotiating, the collaboration, having a transparent discussion about the choices that – and the tradeoffs, there is never a silver bullet on how to do this. Getting those voices at the table and willingness to collaborate is where good solutions come from.
Bill Loveless: And then may be more accountability when it comes to those ES&G standards you mentioned before. I mean there is talk that the security and exchange commission under the Biden Administration for example will be requiring much more disclosures regarding the impact of climate change on businesses of all types including electric utilities. I mean, what do you think about that sort of increased scrutiny?
Lynn Good: Bill, I would say the disclosure around environment, social and governments issues as been expanding for some time. There are a number of frameworks that you may be aware of on sustainability that we have been evaluating, we use a number of them. We’ve produced sustainability reports from 15 years. We have been producing separate climate reports. Really talking about some of these issues that you and I are exchanging ideas on. If you look at our SEC documents, climate risk is in there, what it may mean? So, I do think there will be expanded discussion, but I would not – I would say it is an evolution that’s continuing. We’re already into several chapters of these disclosures, and this will give us chance to go further.
Bills loveless: You feel prepared –
Lynn Good: And it certainly top of my mind for our industry.
Bill Loveless: You feel prepared for it?
Lynn Good: I feel prepared. That’s where this homework thing that we’ve been talking about is important, because this for Duke Energy, this is our business, right. We need to reduce carbon and we need to create sustainable investors – investments for our customers and our investors in way that allows us to keep powering our economies.
Bill Loveless: President Biden is expected to make a big push for funding for infrastructure, new infrastructure in the United States including new energy infrastructure that he considers essential to a cleaner energy future but building infrastructure, including energy infrastructure is difficult, as you learned when Duke, your company and Dominion Resources cancelled the Atlantic Coast Pipeline last year. What advice would have for the administration or for policy makers?
Lynn Good: I think discussions around the difficulty of building infrastructure, Bill, are already underway. And I go first top of mind for me is permitting. In order to build something the permitting to the extent, we could streamline permitting. Have a clear view of what we need to evaluate and the timeframe to evaluate that. That would certainly enable it. We also a company our infrastructure projects for very comprehensive outreach to communities, because it’s not just permitting at the agencies level, it’s the impact on communities and often communities don’t want the infrastructure built in their areas. So figuring out how to find common ground with communities is also important.
Litigation, almost every permit gets challenged by someone, and puts you in the courts to do those. So I think we need to recognize the scale of what we’re talking about here. The fact that infrastructure build is going to be important to accomplish our environmental objectives. And is there any element of those obstacles or those enablers let’s call them that we can work together on in order to make the infrastructure process, may be move a little bit work quickly and more smoothly. And I’d start with permitting.
Bill Loveless: And because it’s been discussion under the Trump administration discussions to take a new fresh look at the National Environmental Policy Act certainly to one extent or another that’s going to come up again, I guess in a federal level that’s where you kind of start, right when you’re looking at new ways—
Lynn Good: That’s an element of it, Bill, and as I talk about streamlining permitting, I want to emphasize, this does not mean stepping away from good custodian work around the environment. This does not mean recklessly plowing through the environment in any way. But I believe we can be responsible around environment, responsible around community impact and build infrastructure. So, that’s really what we’re trying to find is how can we do that more efficiently than we do today.
Bill Loveless: When you look across your own service areas, and then across the country, what sort energy infrastructure do you think is most critical to consider these days when it comes to providing the funding or the regulatory oversight or whatever it takes to get it built?
Lynn Good: So I would point to transmission, Bill, it would be at the top of mind on that question. And as we think about offshore wind as a possibility here in the Carolinas, it’s going to require transmission. If we talk about the geographic differences in the US and where renewable resources are located, often there are places that people don’t live. And if we’re going to open up this, transmission corridors around the US, we have to be willing to move the power to where the people live. I do think battery storage can be a part of that, but there is going to need to be some hardening and expansion of the transmission infrastructure. And it’s very difficult to build that infrastructure today.
Bill Loveless: And it’s very difficult to get the approvals, right? I mean the federal government and energy bills passed, what 15 years ago or so tried to step in and do things at the department of energy and the federal energy regulatory commission to facilitate the construction of high voltage lines across state lines, but it didn’t work out.
Lynn Good: None of these things are easy, but as I think about, again going back where we have common objectives. Our common objective is to lower carbon, so let’s now talk about how we do that. And I think we’re going to have to make some choices. We’re going to have to do some hard things. The scale of what we’re talking about is quite big. And so, what’s let’s approach it with an open mind, let’s approach it with facts and let’s see how we can work together to go as fast as possible.
Bill Loveless: And how do you rally the troops so to speak on that these days. Are you the ultimate optimist who sees the potential for all these things working, are you careful, try to ma –
Lynn Good: I would say it’s a little bit of both, so a sense of urgency, Bill, to move, we need to move, but also keeping an eye on those guardrails I talked about. I need to make investments, so my investors are going to be proud of 10 years from now, this is infrastructure and you don’t pay it back in two years. I need to make sure that I’m putting infrastructure in place so we’ll meet the needs of my customer reliably and I absolutely have to keep an eye on price. The usage of electricity is different, climate to climate, my area of the woods in the Southeast, it’s a lot of air conditioning. A lot of energy usage because of our climate. And so the affordability for our residential customers, and also affordability for manufacturing is important.
Bill Loveless: Right. And the cost to the customer-base changes as well. You sold more power to homes over the past year than you did the previous years and I’m sure less to commercial and industrial.
Lynn Good: Absolutely.
Bill Loveless: Well, there is a lot certainly to consider and certainly a lot of balls in the air for someone like you these days, but a lot of challenges, and opportunities as –
Lynn Good: Opportunities –
Bill Loveless: As well –
Lynn Good: It’s an exciting time. And it reinforces, Bill, our industry really matters. We have important work to do, we have a lot people counting on us. And we want to do it well.
Bill Loveless: Well, we appreciate the time you’ve taken this morning to discuss this. Again it’s a very timely conversation. Thanks for joining us on Columbia Energy Exchange.
Lynn Good: Bill, thank you so much. Always a pleasure. Thank you.
Bill Loveless: For more on, Columbia Energy Exchange, and Center on Global Energy Policy, find us on the web at energypolicy.columbia.edu and on social media @ColumbiaUEnergy. And if you have a minute, give us a reading and leave a comment about us on favorite podcast platform. We really appreciate it. As always, thanks for listening and tune in again next week for another conversation.