Duke CEO: Reward utilities for conservation

Duke Energy's chief executive, James Rogers, urged state regulators today to approve a conservation program that he said could prevent the need to build costly new power plants.

Speaking before the N.C. Utilities Commission in Raleigh, Rogers said Duke's Save-a-Watt proposal would be the most ambitious energy efficiency program in the nation.

“If our proposal is approved, we can begin to create a blueprint for a sustainable energy future,” Rogers said. “Our company needs to more fully embrace energy efficiency and capitalize on energy efficiency as a zero-emissions fifth fuel.”

Save-a-Watt is opposed by church groups, environmental organizations, consumer advocates, the City of Durham and Wal-Mart. Critics say the program would cost customers too much and deliver paltry results.

Rogers said Charlotte-based Duke is willing to take early profit from the plan and reinvest it in energy efficiency efforts.

The Public Staff, the state's consumer protection arm, has characterized Save-a-Watt as windfall to Duke's shareholders. Rogers' testimony nears the end of hearings before the commission, which is expected to rule on the proposal this year.

Rogers said that power companies need to be amply rewarded for running efficiency programs. Otherwise, efficiency will always take a back seat to building new power plants.

Under Save-a-Watt, Duke would offer customers financial incentives to buy energy efficient appliances and upgrade their homes. All customers would pay for the incentives and administrative costs of the program through their monthly bills.