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Transcript: Future of Energy with Former U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz & Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good

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MR. IGNATIUS: Welcome to Washington Post Live. I’m David Ignatius, a columnist at The Post. Today we are going to be talking about energy and how to reduce our carbon footprint, even as we keep our economy strong. We are going to be joined in a few minutes by one of the leaders of the industry. But we want to begin today in a conversation with one of the smartest people in the country about energy issues, former Energy Secretary Ernie Moniz. Ernie, welcome to Washington Post Live. It is great to have you.

MR. MONIZ: Thank you. Good to see you again, David, after this COVID house arrest.

MR. IGNATIUS: The house arrest I hope is ending, and it is great to see you.

So, Ernie, let's start by talking about this week's big news, the announcement yesterday by the Biden administration that they are going to be introducing a project to produce 30 million gigawatts from offshore wind that would power 10 million homes, in the story that we published, cut 78 million metric tons of CO2 emissions.

Tell us how big a deal this is, in your judgment, in terms of the overall problem of climate change, and whether you think it is replicable in other sites and areas.

MR. MONIZ: David, just to get the numbers there, it is 30 gigawatts of offshore wind.

MR. IGNATIUS: Not million.

MR. MONIZ: Yeah, no, it's okay. And it is a very, very--it is a massive project, when you figure, let's take a typical offshore wind turbine at, say, 10 megawatts, which is very, very large. You can see that you need 100 of those for 1 gigawatt, and, therefore, you know, thousands being talked about here.

There are issues of not only how you will put those in the water but how you will bring the electricity to shore, how you manage the dock infrastructure you'll need to develop and service these turbines.

But it has to happen, because particularly here in the Northeast, you know, we do not have a lot of options, to be perfectly honest. We are going to need to electrify a lot of our economy, and here in the Northeast, particularly, bluntly, if we are not going to allow nuclear power plants, modern nuclear power plants to be built, for example, we are not well positioned for capturing CO2 and burying it underground, so offshore is one of the few places where we can go, and it has got to be very, very large, as was this announcement.

MR. IGNATIUS: So, let me ask you the common-sense question that people sometimes have about both wind and solar projects, which is what happens when the wind isn't blowing? What happens when the sun isn't shining? How do you make these things sustainable and viable when you have uncertainty of supplies, as it were? And maybe you could talk about batteries and whether battery technology is the solution to this problem.

MR. MONIZ: The issue of variability of wind and solar is certainly a very, very big one, but let me distinguish between onshore and offshore in the sense that the resource is certainly somewhat more steady when you go to the offshore environment and have these very, very massive, tall wind turbines. But still, it is an issue.

If I, in fact, put some numbers, in a sense, behind it, we have looked at, let's say, Texas, which has been in the news the last month. Texas has the largest wind deployment in the country. We looked for one year, hour by hour, and what we found was, surprising, that 90 days out of the year, roughly, Texas had no wind in the state. It had no wind for nine consecutive days. So clearly you have to have backup.

Batteries will, in my view, never be the solution for those kinds of long durations. Batteries will solve the intraday storage issues, but we still need an innovation to get economic, long-duration storage. It is quite a big deal.

MR. IGNATIUS: So, let me ask you, you and I have been talking about energy issues for some years now. I can remember coming to the events you would host in Washington to show off new technologies. What do you think are the energy industry's top priorities now in terms of technology, innovation, findings ways to adapt to a world where climate change seems to be moving faster even than we feared?

MR. MONIZ: Well, first of all, we should look at different parts of the industry. There is no doubt that the electricity sector is the lead horse in decarbonization. The investor-owned utilities are heading towards 50 percent reductions of emissions in this decade, for example, and are prepared to pick up the pace even more in response to the president's challenges. So, once you get the grid decarbonized, as I mentioned earlier, for the Northeast, then the next job is to electrify as much as possible of the rest of the economy. Light-duty vehicles, electric vehicles are an obvious thing, going forward.

But we also know that--I think we know that--we will need some sort of a fuel to complement the electricity. So here is the picture: electricity, wind, solar, some other renewables, hydro when you have it, hopefully, in my view, some nuclear, some carbon capture and sequestration, especially from natural gas plants will go a long way on the electricity side.

However, when you have a polar vortex--we could run the movie again--in Texas last month, and, of course, ten years ago as well, you are going to need some sort of fuel as a backup there. Now, for a while that is going to be natural gas, but I could see, as one scenario, and there will be multiple contributors, but one scenario, a dominant one, could be that in some sense natural gas evolves into hydrogen. Hydrogen can play that role of a fuel. You can store a lot of energy, for a long time, even for seasons. So it is that mix of electricity and fuels that will be required.

In terms of the industry, as I have already said, the electric utility industry is evolving, and is evolving quite rapidly. In fact, many don't realize that almost 30 of the largest utilities in the United States have already pledged to go to net zero emissions by mid-century. As I say, they may accelerate that.

But what about the oil and gas companies, for example? [Audio distortion] have lagged, I would say. The electricity sector, well, if you think about [audio distortion] carbon capture and sequestration, like removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and the upper layers of the ocean, by various methods, all of those involve skill sets of the oil and gas companies. So, I think that the oil and gas companies need to pick up the pace in terms of evolving their business model over the next 10, 20 years, to advance those kinds of technologies as a part of the low-carbon future, where again, they will play a very, very major role. That is all part of coalition building, getting everybody engaged and pointing in the same direction.

MR. IGNATIUS: So, let's talk about that issue, really the politics of energy transformation. President Biden has set the ambitious goal--I hope you'd say it is ambitious--of net zero emissions by 2050. I want to ask you, first, do you think that is realistic, and second, to talk a little bit about the politics of that transformation, what has to be done to make it acceptable, palatable, something that is going to work on the ground, not just in our theoretical models.

MR. MONIZ: Well, it is obviously a very ambitious goal, but we also view it as an essential goal, because we are seeing how the extremes of weather already are hitting us and global warming continues.

I think there has been a major shift in the politics, David. I would go back to the campaign, the election campaign. I don't think it is noted often enough that now the president, President Biden, and, of course, the Democratic Party as a whole, they made the calculation, correctly, that for the first time, climate was a political winning issue in the campaign. And I think there is no doubt that that was the case. That is a big shift. The public is ready for this. The public wants it.

Now, to get to net zero it will be tough, and one of the areas that we have advocated for very strongly, as part of the solution, is what are called negative carbon technologies. In fact, it is almost a tautology. If you are going to go to net zero, and eventually to net negative, well, you have to have negative carbon technologies. So that is, again, removing historically emitted CO2 from the atmosphere and the upper layers of the ocean.

But I do want to caution that one not jump to the conclusion that removing CO2 from the atmosphere is going what is called direct air capture, where you literally just suck the CO2 out of the air and then use it or bury it. Very expensive today, for sure. That is one method, but there are other methods involving terrestrial solutions. Of course, planting trees is one, but you can also modify plants that have very deep root systems. You can accelerate mineralization of CO2, turning it into a solid. As I said, you could also work on the oceans to try to make them less acidic, more alkaline, going forward.

So, for that, we say we need still about a $10 billion research, development, and demonstration agenda in this decade, so that we can have those solutions, at reasonable cost, say, by 2030, to start deploying them at scale. I think that is how we meet the net zero goal, technically.

Politically, it is about coalition-building--I have said that many times--and it is about recognizing that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for all regions of our country, let alone for all countries of the world. So regional focus on solution, coalition-building, that means having the energy companies of today, along with entrepreneurs, be part of the solution--otherwise, you get headwinds--and very importantly, we have to get serious about not leaving behind workers and communities. Stranded workers and stranded communities are another way of slowing the pace, and I think it is extremely interesting, even in the short period of the Biden administration, to see labor, organized labor, coming forward so strongly in support of these programs, and, of course, the jobs that they will create.

So, I think bringing together, again, labor and business and environmental groups, financial institutions, religious and military leaders, we could go on, that is the winning combination. And I might say that the administration will be advancing these kinds of solutions, this kind of coalition-building, in other ways which get less attention. For example, I think it is very clear that the Securities and Exchange Commission, under Gary Gensler, will strongly up the ante on corporate disclosure of climate risk. That will, in turn, resonate with the shareholder, financial institution EIG requirements on corporate America.

So, I think corporate America is going to change dramatically, just in the next few years, in terms of how it is internalizing climate risks and how shareholders evaluate companies in that context. A lot of change is going to happen.

MR. IGNATIUS: That's fascinating, especially your discussion of the carbon-negative technologies that would actually extract carbon.

I want to ask you about a simple argument that is often made about accelerating the transition away from fossil fuels, and that is that we need a carbon tax. That is the simplest, clearest way to get this process moving faster. Do you think that is a good idea, and also, maybe more to the point, do you think President Biden and his team are ready to embrace it?

MR. MONIZ: Well, first of all, I think when one talks about a price on carbon emissions--we can call it a tax, for simplicity's sake--sure. Obviously, the economists all say that this is a way of cutting down on what you don't want, namely emissions. However, I want to emphasize, David, that just talking about a tax in isolation is not sufficient. We have to talk about--let's say we have a tax. What do you do with the funds?

The late George Shultz, who passed away only weeks ago, was an advocate, for example, for a tax, but a tax was combined, in his proposal, with a dividend, a uniform dividend, that went out to everybody. And the important point there is that is socially progressive. Those on the lower end of the income scale are going to come out net ahead. He also talked about then removing some of the regulations and incentives that maybe would not be needed if there was a carbon price. He also talked about the need, which the Europeans are pushing hard on, to have some kind of border adjustment for carbon content of imports in order to try to level the playing field and prevent the leakage of jobs and industry.

So, my point really is whether you take that proposal in all of its detail or not, it really has to be looked at as just more than just a tax. What do you do with it? How do you address the progressive nature that I think we need?

Now in terms of the current political environment, I think it is pretty clear that where we are heading right now is rather than a tax is what's called a clean energy standard. One version of it would be very analogous to the renewable portfolio standards that many states have--you know, thou shalt generate the following fraction of your electricity from carbon-free technologies. In this case, it is not just renewables. It is any technology, which is a very good development, technology neutral. So, there could be a federal law requiring, let's say, all utilities to generate some percentage by zero carbon.

That seems to be the politically favored direction now for the electricity sector, where it is fairly easy to at least imagine how you would carry out that program. However, I think that when you go to the economy as a whole, which of course we must do--these commitments at mid-century for net zero is not just the electricity sector, which is just about a quarter of emissions--it is about the entire economy--transportation, industry, agriculture, buildings, and all the like. I think that there you are going to have to move beyond the sectoral approach of a clean energy standard and probably go to something like a tax. But I think that is going to be Stage Two.

MR. IGNATIUS: Energy sector, Ernie Moniz, it is just great to talk to you. I feel like I could talk to you all afternoon about this, and I hope we will have that chance soon. I just want to thank you for joining us on Washington Post Live and sharing some of these really interesting cutting-edge ideas about how to get to a safer, sustainable world. Thank you, Ernie.

MR. MONIZ: Thank you, David.

MR. IGNATIUS: I will be back with an industry leader in a few moments. Stay with us.

[Video plays]

MS. MESERVE: Hello. I'm Jeanne Meserve. General Electric has been in the energy business for 100 years, and along with its customers, GE generates one-third of the world's power. Given that fact, I am pleased to be joined today by Scott Strazik, CEO of GE Gas Power and Vic Abate, Chief Technology Officer at GE, to discuss the energy transition. Scott, let me start with you.

Climate change is blamed for the freeze last month in Texas that knocked out power to more than 1 million people. With the frequency of extreme weather-related events expected to increase, do you think that government, the public, and industry, including your own business, are taking climate change with enough urgency?

MR. STRAZIK: Thanks, Jeanne. Considering the urgency of the challenge in front of us we can do more faster, now [audio distortion], and it starts with the power sector. The reality is the power sector represents about 40 percent of the carbon emissions in the world today, at the exact time the world is trying to electrify to decarbonize multiple industries. Think automobiles. Think home heating. So, if in parallel to that we are not decarbonizing the power sector that is creating the electricity, we are not going to get the benefit as we electrify these other industries that the world needs.

This is why inside GE we are so focused on a decade of action, with three key pillars. The first, grew renewables as fast as the world can afford. The second, smartly invest in gas as a force multiplier to grow wind and solar, while using the scale of gas to rapidly retire coal. And third, make smart investments in the grid to utilize the system between variable, zero carbon, renewables, and the firming of gas.

MS. MESERVE: Vic, given the need for ambitious action and quick action, why not focus even more on renewables?

MR. ABATE: Well, thanks, Jeanne, and I am looking forward to our discussion. You know, to best answer your question I think it is important to put the power system into context. The grid has been around for over 100 years, and the power industry has built a system that provides power to more than 6 billion people. So massive power sector, and it is still expected to grow an additional 40 percent between now and 2050.

Now regarding renewables, wind and solar have been the fastest growing power generation technology over the past decade, and they make up more than half of all new power gen installs today. And with offshore wind technology advancements, like GE's Haliade-X turbine, the world's most powerful offshore wind turbine, we are seeing offshore wind growth, not only globally but now in the U.S., in places like Vineyard Wind in Massachusetts.

So even with the tremendous progress that I just described, and more than $2 trillion of investment in renewables, wind and solar today still only account for 9 percent of the global electricity demand, and as our research center has modeled future scenarios, and I am at the center here today, we see a renewables-only focused scenario as leaving a gap in the world's electricity demand in 2050 of more than 30 percent. And as Scott just mentioned, other sectors like transportation and heating are counting on the electrical sector to grow on their journey to decarbonize.

So, this is why we believe a broader portfolio of energy technologies and decarbonization solutions are required. We see more nuclear, more gas, and more renewables for decades to come.

MS. MESERVE: Scott, gas, you mentioned, and Vic just mentioned, as part of the transition, but it is a fossil fuel. It contributes to CO2 emissions.

MR. STRAZIK: Jeanne, the reality today with gas is it is not a zero-carbon solution, but as Vic just outlined, we haven't yet built a roadmap to zero in the power sector. That said, gas is the cleanest fossil fuel alternative and the most flexible fossil fuel alternative to support this transition.

And if I could give two levels of detail, the first is a gas plant, on average, is 50 to 65 percent less carbon-intensive than coal, when the world still generates a third of its power from coal. If we look at the U.S., the U.S., since 2007, has reduced emissions from the power sector by about 33 percent? The biggest single contributor to that emissions reduction? Coal to gas switching.

Now, $1 invested in gas today is not $1 invested in carbon forever. The reality is there are multiple technology pathways with gas to zero, whether that be hydrogen or carbon capture. So, the magic here is how we use the gas technology this decade to rapidly accelerate the decarbonization of the power sector while simultaneously making investments in gas on its pathway to zero.

MS. MESERVE: Vic, the Biden administration this week is unveiling its infrastructure plan. What would you like to see, in terms of upgrades to the electrical grid?

MR. ABATE: Yeah, Jeanne, you know, when I think of the grid, it is very important, I think of a system of systems, really from generation to transmission to consumption. And all three of these need to work together seamlessly. And what we recently learned from Texas is that when the grid doesn't behave this way, the impact on society, on families, and economies is very, very serious, right?

And so, I raise this as it clearly validates the need to invest and to innovate and deploy advanced grid technologies as part of the energy transition. And with the advancements we have seen in digital technologies--power electronics, controls, and the Internet of Things--across all the industries, we are seeing this continue to grow, the benefit of modernizing it, adopting these latest technologies to the grid is paramount. And so, we see more opportunity to drive renewables, greater resilience, and really a more robust path for decarbonization with the administration's plan to invest in the grid.

MS. MESERVE: Scott, we are almost out of time but quickly, are there additionally some policy changes you would like to see out of Washington?

MR. STRAZIK: On policy we need to be focused on outcomes, both emissions outcomes and economics. And if I could give three quick examples. The technology advancement with offshore is rapid. We need a policy framework in the U.S. to benefit from this advanced technology.

We talked a lot about gas. With that we need to strictly regulate methane with technology that exists today while also incentivizing for innovation, whether that be hydrogen, carbon capture, or advanced nuclear on this country's path to zero.

MS. MESERVE: Scott Strazik, Vic Abate, thank you both for joining us here today. I will now hand it back to The Washington Post.

[Video plays]

MR. IGNATIUS: Welcome back. I'm David Ignatius, a columnist at The Post, and I am pleased to continue our program with Lynn Good, who is the Chief Executive of one of the nation's largest power producers, Duke Energy. Lynn, welcome to Washington Post Live.

MS. GOOD: Thank you, David. Very good to be here.

MR. IGNATIUS: So, let me just ask you about how Duke Energy has been proceeding in trying to reduce its own carbon emissions. In that little video we saw that you've reduced the carbon emissions by 39 percent, almost 40 percent. I read that you have retired 51 coal-fired plants since 2005. Presumably for Duke that is just the beginning, and I would be grateful if you would lay out for us what you see ahead for your company in terms of additional continuing actions.

MS. GOOD: Sure, and David, thank you. You know, we have been on a journey for a decade, reducing carbon emissions, and for the year 2020, our emissions are down 40 percent. It is the result of retiring coal, as you mentioned. It is also adding renewables. North Carolina, one of the largest states in which we operate, is third in the nation in installed solar capacity, so there's been a lot of investment in renewables. And natural gas has played a role in the progress that we have made as well.

And so, as we look forward, our commitment is to lower carbon emissions by at least 50 percent by 2030. It will be slightly higher in some of our states, given the geography and the nature of resources. And then also to get to net zero by 2050. We have a clear line of sight on how to get there by 2030, to the goal that we have established. It is more retirement of coal, it is more renewables, it is more battery storage, it is some natural gas to maintain reliability.

And then as we get into the 2030s and 2040s, much like your conversation with Secretary Moniz, we see the need for new technologies. We see the need for technologies that are dispatchable yet without carbon. And so, we are strong advocates for investment in R&D. We are working closely with the National Labs. We are piloting technologies as they become available. So, I am talking about advanced nuclear. I am talking about hydrogen, carbon capture, longer duration storage.

And I think if we put all of these things together and work to not only make progress in the near term with the technologies we have but invest in those technologies that we are going to need in the future that we can achieve these goals.

MR. IGNATIUS: Let me ask you the basic political question that our whole country struggles with as we think about this transition. Duke Energy, historically, is a huge consumer of coal. You have been a big consumer of natural gas as well. What do you say to people in states where coal extraction and natural gas production are huge industries? What do we say to those people as they look at this future and they just get scared? They say, "There goes my job. There goes my livelihood." How do we reassure them that they are not going to be big losers in this transition?

MS. GOOD: David, that's a really good question, and one that we have spent a lot of time with, because if you think about a company that has retired 51 coal units, we have been in this conversation with our states for some time.

And what we find is to have an honest conversation about the need to upgrade the infrastructure that our customers, our communities, our policymakers are demanding, reduction in carbon. We believe deeply in reduction in carbon, and if you can reach agreement on the pace and the replacement generation and engage those communities in how investments can be continued, whether it is in replacement generation in those communities, whether it is investment in community colleges for workforce development, you have opportunities to bring people together and establish a path.

And I would say to you a lot of discussion going on now at the federal level, but this discussion has been going on at the state level for some time, specific community discussions on how we can make this transition. And we had an example here in the Carolinas, with one of our communities, where we needed to retire coal, wanted to retire coal. And working with a coalition of community leaders and policymakers we were able to develop a plan that retired coal, made an investment in natural gas, an investment in solar, an investment in battery storage, and then worked with the community on energy efficiency and demand response, a way they could manage their energy usage in a way that would lessen the need for additional resources in the future.

We need to replicate that kind of community engagement over and over and over as we go through this transformation, because I think it is that coalition-building that is going to make it successful on the ground, which is actually what has to happen in order for us to make progress.

MR. IGNATIUS: You know, we say often that all politics is local, and that is probably true with energy politics as well, I am imagining, those community meetings. But let me just ask you to stand back, Lynn, for a minute. Duke Energy is a leader in your industry, but honestly, how do you think the energy industry is doing as a whole in making this transition? Sometimes you get the feeling that there are leading companies that are moving forward, others that are dragging their feet. What is your assessment of your industry, overall?

MS. GOOD: I am very proud, David, of the progress our industry has made. If you think about carbon reduction at Duke Energy, at 40 percent from 2005, and for the energy industry as a whole it is between 30 and 35 percent. Those numbers may not mean much, but they are greater reductions than what would have been required under the Clean Power Plan that President Obama put forward, and with our original commitment to Paris in 2025, those reductions are greater than that pathway as well.

So, I do believe a lot of great work has been going on. I am not sure it is fully recognized, and I think as the urgency of this conversation and the depth of the conversation continues, there is always an inclination to go faster and do more.

But I feel like as an industry, and I feel this way about Duke, we come to this conversation not only with a demonstrated track record but with having done our homework, on what we think is going to be necessary to get to 2030 and 2040, and that makes for the ingredients of bringing people together to make real progress. And so that's where my optimism lies.

MR. IGNATIUS: And let me ask you the same question I asked Secretary Moniz. What is your feeling about a carbon tax or a price on carbon emissions, as opposed to what I thought I heard Secretary Moniz saying was more likely, which is a regulatory approach, a regulatory mandate about what you can and can't emit? What would you like to see?

MS. GOOD: I think, David, the devil is in the details on all of these policies. So, a clean energy standard could also be a legislative solution, just like a carbon tax. You may remember back 15 years ago we were talking about cap and trade. I think regulation will likely be focused more on perhaps coal and natural gas.

But stepping back from this, what we are looking for is durable public policy, that is market based, that recognizes cost effectiveness, and also that provides some incentives around research and development.

And if I go even a bit deeper, I would say it should be a policy that incents the transition of generation, it needs to speak about nuclear, it should speak about the role of natural gas, it should talk about permitting and infrastructure building, and I think about the expansion of the grid and other things necessary to make progress. We need to permit infrastructure and often. To build transmission or gas infrastructure, it takes longer to permit than it does to build.

And then really building on the conversation that Secretary Moniz has, it also needs to recognize we don't have all the technologies today that we need. And so how are we going to incent bringing those technologies to market more quickly, so that progress can be made more quickly.

So, I think those are the kind of underpinnings of what public policy is necessary to move forward, and it can take a variety of forms. I think what is important is we need to get at the table, working together, and we certainly are anxious and engaged with the administration and the agencies to talk about what it will take. And those policies can be real enablers, and the durability of them makes it possible to attract capital, to make the progress that we are all counting on.

MR. IGNATIUS: To take the example that is probably most vivid in our viewers' minds, the complete mess with the grid in Texas when they had the temperatures plummet, just walk us through the basics of how that happened. Obviously, it was severe cold weather, in short, but there were also problems with Texas' non-connection to national grids. I think the simplest way to put this to you is to ask, was this a preventable crisis, and what should be done by Texas and other states that have similar potential problems to make sure nothing as horrendous as that happens again?

MS. GOOD: You know, David, it is an opportunity for all of us to sit back and reflect on that situation. I think for Duke Energy and the customers that count on Duke we are doing just that, looking at lessons learned.

It was an extreme weather event, you know, something like 8 to 10 degrees below historic averages. So, weatherization of equipment, from renewables to nuclear to natural gas all became an issue. I think market structure became an issue, and lack of import capability. So, there were a number of things that came together.

And as I look at the opportunities that we will be exploring at Duke, we will continue to look at whether the weatherization is adequate. We suffered through the polar vortex in the geographies that we serve. We also have a reminder every season with hurricanes. I serve coastal regions. And we take every one of these weather events to really evaluate, is there more investment necessary to harden, to create resiliency capability?

We have also invested in dual fuel capability and diverse resources, so that if there is a disruption in gas supply or something like that, we have other sources that we can go to. I think those will also be closely evaluated.

Each of my states has also asked for a specific briefing. They will look again at whether or not there is adequate reserve capacity. In the event something goes wrong, do we have assets standing by, ready to go in the event of extreme conditions?

I think overall, David, what this has done is it has elevated the conversation around reliability, which I believe is particularly important when we talk about the scale of the transformation that we are all aspiring to as we talk about carbon emission reductions. Let's make sure that we achieve those emission reductions while also maintaining reliability and affordability for our customers. It is optimizing those three things that will really make the progress we are counting on.

MR. IGNATIUS: Good to think that something positive came out of that catastrophe in Texas. Thank you for running through that.

Thinking about what Secretary Moniz said, we are really in the process of electrification. He made that point several times. You are in the electricity business so that is good news for you. There is a particular part of the electric transition that has come to interest us here at The Post, because we had a Washington Post Live session with Mark Reuss, who is the president of General Motors, and really is leading their effort for electric vehicles. And I was astonished by the extent to which GM is really betting its future as a company on its ability to make electric vehicles that are low cost, that have long distance capability, that have whole new battery technologies.

Tell us what, from your perspective as a supplier of energy, you think is ahead. How quickly are we going to move to electric vehicles? How broadly based will they be? How geographically broad-based will they be?

MS. GOOD: David, we are watching all of the trends that you are talking about, and at this point we are looking at a variety of scenarios on how it could impact the amount of electricity that we sell in our regions. We are a bit behind. I would say California leading the charge on a state basis. We have relatively modest adoption around our states, but we expect that to change.

So, we are doing a few things. The first thing I would point to is we are working with all of our states to put in what I would call backbone infrastructure for charging, not only supporting customers who are buying vehicles, to make sure they can charge at home, but also putting in a base level of infrastructure around travel corridors, in certain commercial spaces, and other places that could be logical for people to charge.

We are also electrifying our own fleet. So, we have quite a substantial fleet of not only light-duty trucks but medium- and heavy-duty trucks, and we have made a commitment to electrify all of the light-duty by 2030, and are working with a number of suppliers on heavy- and medium-duty trucks to make sure we can make similar progress, at least 50 percent by 2030.

And then the other thing we are doing is preparing the grid for what this may mean. It is a different form of demand for us. Typically, customers would charge at night. That is a great time for us because, you know, we do not have as much demand on the system. But how can we incent customers to charge their vehicles at the right time? What kind of support would we want to have in our infrastructure to enable electric vehicles? So, we are also making investments there, really trying to use data analytics to decide and think about where those investments should be made across our footprint. And I think it represents an extraordinarily important initiative, because it is net zero for the whole economy, not just the electric industry, and electrification will be an important part of that.

MR. IGNATIUS: So, this is a week when Washington is talking about infrastructure. Transportation Secretary Buttigieg was just the latest official to say he thinks there should be a significant commitment to infrastructure spending. And I am curious what you, as CEO of one of the nation's largest energy companies, think about the specifics of what should be in an infrastructure package. What would you like to see it concentrated on? What do you think the needs as they pertain to your industry are, that are most important?

MS. GOOD: You know, David, I think the climate policy and priority of President Biden on climate should be a part of the thinking around infrastructure. EV infrastructure could be a part of that. That's certainly key to climate and carbon reduction. I also think about permitting reform. I touched on that a moment ago. If you think about the scale of the transformation that we are talking about, the ability to permit and put infrastructure in place is going to be really important.

I think about just the renewables. In order for us to achieve our goal, we need to build about 1,500 to 1,600 megawatts of renewables every year for 30 years, and we built 3,000 megawatts over the last 4 years. So, think about the scale of that. And if I look at all of Duke, we will be spending infrastructure money at a pace that is very significant, compared to our history. So, infrastructure and permitting support would be important.

And then I would go again to research and development. Is there a way to look at research and development as an important way for us to put investment into this climate policy and into an infrastructure policy so that we are prepared to make the investments to bring those technologies to scale?

MR. IGNATIUS: You've mentioned permitting a couple of times in your remarks, and it made me wonder if that issue needs to be more central in our discussion of climate change and the changes that are necessary. When we were racing to develop vaccines with Operation Warp Speed, one key thing was clearing some of the regulatory obstacles that have existed in the pharmaceutical industry to get the things that people needed more quickly.

We need measures to address climate change. Do you think dealing with permitting problems, obstacles, should be part of that effort, and how would you go about it?

MS. GOOD: I think, David, it is a matter of bringing people together again and talking about what is necessary in order to move forward. You know, you started the conversation with Secretary Moniz on offshore wind, an extraordinarily important resource, something that we feel strongly about and believe needs to be a part of the future. But in order to get offshore wind onshore we are going to need to make transmission investments, and transmission is a very difficult form of infrastructure to build.

And so, I think, you know, as you think about top-line aspirations of net zero, let's get to the very concrete discussion of the enabling items, like transmission, like infrastructure and the grid and distribution grid. Let's talk about EV infrastructure. And let's talk about the enabling things necessary in order to make that happen. I think it is a matter of bringing people together and looking at where the obstacles exist and seeing if we can find a way to move more quickly. In no way does this mean we step away from the importance of environmental stewardship as we permit infrastructure, but I do think there is a way that we can move more rapidly, and perhaps bring communities together earlier in the process to make it move more smoothly.

MR. IGNATIUS: It is a fascinating juxtaposition of environmental objections, the desire for speed to deal with climate change but desire for caution and prudence to affect the environment. It will be interesting to see how that proceeds.

Let me ask you, you have been an advocate for thinking more about nuclear power. I am of the generation that remembers Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, and so I still get nervous when I think about nuclear power. Tell me why I should not be so nervous, why I should put that in my energy portfolio, if you will, as I think about the future.

MS. GOOD: David, I appreciate that question. Duke Energy is the largest operator of nuclear power in regulated markets in the U.S. We have a lot of reactors in the Carolinas, producing carbon-free energy every hour. It is about 50 to 60 percent of the energy in the Carolinas. And the safety record here in the U.S. is quite strong, and there is an incredible focus, investment, oversight, governance process to ensure that we are operating these assets with public safety in mind, every hour of every day, and that commitment is unwavering.

But as I think about bringing nuclear into the conversation we have been having about climate, Duke Energy does not see a way to get to carbon reduction at the speed that we need to achieve without nuclear energy. These plants run 95 percent of the time. So, think about a foundation where 50 percent of the power is coming from carbon-free nuclear. Then you begin to talk about how can I add renewables, battery storage, and other things.

So, I would look to the safety record here in the U.S., David. It is extraordinarily strong. The commitment is strong. The investment in this industry is strong. And frankly, I do not see a way for us to reach our carbon goals without nuclear being a part of the equation.

MR. IGNATIUS: So, we have less than a minute left. I am going to ask you a quick question, but I would love to know your answer. What should be on Secretary John Kerry's agenda as he heads toward Glasgow? Name two or three things you think he really ought to emphasize in that key meeting on climate change.

MS. GOOD: I would love for him to emphasize the progress that the electric industry has made, and the commitment that we have to the future. I believe that the goals that we have set at Duke Energy and for our industry are achievable, and you have the commitment of the industry to make it happen.

MR. IGNATIUS: So, it is great to have you with us. Really interesting discussion of the issues facing your company and your industry. Lynn Good, thanks for joining us today.

MS. GOOD: David, thank you so much. A pleasure to be here.

MR. IGNATIUS: So that is all the time we have for our program today. Please keep watching. At 3:00 this afternoon, my colleague, Ann Hornaday, will be interviewing directors Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed about their Academy Award-nominated documentary film, "My Octopus Teacher." You can always head to Washington Post Live to register for our future programs. Please stay with us. Thanks a lot.

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