Solar protesters disrupt Duke shareholder meeting
- Duke's annual shareholder meeting was disrupted by protestors chanting "stop blocking rooftop solar" while a larger protest happened outside the building, the Triad Business Journal reports.
- Four activists wearing matching t-shirts reportedly stood and began their chant as Duke CEO Lynn Good concluded a section of her speech on the utility's coal ash management programs. Other protests, led by Greenpeace, took place outdoors to draw attention to grievances with recent coal ash leaks and spills at Duke sites.
- Some shareholders also raised questions about Duke's political contributions, particularly its support of the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.
CEO Lynn Good responded calmly to the four protestors who stood up and began chanting during her speech on Thursday, according to the Triad Business Journal.
“Thank you,” Good reportedly said as the activists were ushered out. “A lot of passionate feelings about solar, and I appreciate those and respect them.”
Duke is currently embroiled in a political battle over rooftop solar in North Carolina, where a GOP-led bill is seeking to authorize third party ownership (TPO) for the resource, which would allow individuals and solar companies to sell power directly to consumers, bypassing the local utility. That bill gained momentum throughout the month of April and now has 30 cosponsors from both sides of the aisle.
Duke opposes the bill, although its unregulated subsidiary sells power directly to customers in other states. The company says it would prefer a more comprehensive bill to address multiple issues surrounding rooftop solar — from rate structure to solar caps and TPO — similar to the deal it struck with solar advocates in South Carolina. TPO is unnecessary in North Carolina because Duke is already expanding rooftop solar and delivers low prices and reliable service to its customers, Duke senior vice president for distributed energy Robert Caldwell told Utility Dive in an interview.
Protestors outside the shareholder meeting also highlighted Duke's recent problems around coal ash. Last year, a broken pipe at a closed Duke plant leaked 39,000 gallons of ash — laden with toxins and heavy metals — into the Dan River. Duke says that the problem has been mitigated and that the river and community have been returned to full health, but environmentalists say leaks are common at Duke sites across the state. Protestors also objected to the company's plans to bury 3 million tons of ash at two abandoned clay mines at Duke facilities.
Shareholders also reportedly raised questions about Duke's political contributions. One accused the utility of paying $10 million to the Democratic National Convention, which was held in Charlotte, Duke's home city, in 2012. The shareholder reportedly called it a "corrupt payoff" to the Democratic Party, according to the Business Journal.
“Why doesn’t Duke sue in court to recover this $10 million?” he asked. “I, as one damaged shareholder, want my money back.”
- Triad Business Jornal Sharp words and a surprising vote at Duke Energy’s shareholder meeting
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