Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers has two aspirations for the United States: to “substantially decarbonize” the energy supply in this century and to become the world’s most energy-efficient economy.

“Practically speaking, the way we can begin to achieve these aspirations is to take an entirely new path — and change the way we think about and use energy in this country,” Rogers said, speaking to the Economic Club of Indiana last week. He also said that Indiana, known as the “nation’s highway hub,” is positioning itself to become the “crossroads for America” in energy as well.

Rogers noted that Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels “Homegrown Energy” plan “puts that classic midwestern quality of self-reliance at the heart of Indiana’s long-term energy vision. But the governor’s plan doesn’t stop there. His vision is to turn Indiana’s homegrown natural resources into an economic engine. As Indiana’s largest electric supplier, Duke Energy looks forward to being part of that destiny, through our proposed Edwardsport coal-gasification plant and pursuit of renewable energy and energy efficiency” (see NGI, Dec. 4, 2006).

Rogers noted that in October Duke issued bids for power from renewable energy sources — including sun, wind, water, organic matter and other sources. And earlier this year the utility agreed to purchase energy from Indiana’s first commercial wind farm in Benton County, beginning next spring. Duke also is collaborating with Purdue University in the state on wind-power research and on the potential for using switchgrass as a fuel combined with coal.

“The low-hanging fruit is energy efficiency, and it’s available now,” Rogers said. Besides being able to meet “growing energy demand,” he said energy efficiency would save money “compared to the cost of building traditional generation,” and it would “help us address global climate change. If we can find ways to use less energy, that means fewer power plants will have to be built. It also means we can retire our older, higher-emitting power plants sooner.”

Duke has filed a request with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission to increase by more than 10 times the energy savings it receives from its efficiency programs for Indiana customers, the CEO noted. “We have filed similar proposals in North Carolina and South Carolina, and we plan to introduce them also in Ohio and Kentucky over the coming six months. If approved in all five states we serve, we project that we could avoid building more than 6,000 MW of generating capacity by the year 2017.

“We will be paid only for the results we achieve — not for how much we spend on energy-efficiency programs. That has been the traditional approach. If we can demonstrate that we are successful in reducing demand, customers will pay approximately 10% less than the cost of building and operating new power plants to meet that same demand. And customers who take full advantage of energy efficiency programs will see their power bills go down.”

Rogers said he subscribes to a philosophy called “cathedral thinking.” He noted that “the great cathedrals of Europe were built, not in a matter of months, or even years, but over many decades, in some cases centuries. Most of the craftsmen and laborers who painstakingly built them, stone by stone, did not live to see the end result. But that did not dampen their creativity, or their resolve to build lasting monuments to their beliefs. The vision of the architects, the stonemasons, the carpenters and the clergy who built them shared one purpose — to create a lasting legacy.

“In addressing today’s energy challenges, we must take the same approach as those cathedral builders took centuries ago. We can’t change the world in one day, one week, one month, one year or one decade. We must build on our commitment over time, and have faith that our work will eventually achieve our highest aspirations.”

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