Norwegian pension fund may dump Duke Energy stocks

Duke Energy's Marshall coal-fired power plant on Lake Norman.
Duke Energy's Marshall coal-fired power plant on Lake Norman. dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

A committee of Norway’s parliament has recommended that the nation’s huge pension fund divest its shares in Duke Energy and other coal-dependent utilities.

The Norwegian Government Pension Fund, the world’s largest, owns 0.76 percent of Duke’s shares, according to Norway’s Aftenposten newspaper.

The committee recommendation came after Boone-based Waterkeeper Alliance official Donna Lisenby visited Parliament last week, the newspaper reported.

Lisenby talked about Duke’s 2014 coal ash spill into the Dan River and leaks from Duke’s 32 coal ash ponds in North Carolina.

“She emphasizes that the cost of shareholders will be high,” according to a Google translation of the article.

Duke faces six shareholder lawsuits over its handling of ash. The company settled federal criminal charges this month for $102 million.

“You hate to lose any investor, but we can talk about our strides to lower emissions and reduce our dependence on coal,” Duke spokesman Randy Wheeless said.

Duke has retired 40 coal units across its six-state territory since 2011, including seven of its 14 North Carolina coal-fired power plants. Still, coal fueled about 40 percent of the electricity Duke generated in 2014.

The Norwegian fund is where revenues from the country’s petroleum industry are deposited.

The recommendation to Parliament asks that it divest of companies that get more than 30 percent of their revenues or power production from coal, according to the advocacy group 350.org.

“The way this idea – that the world has far more fossil fuel than it can burn – has spread is an enormously hopeful sign,” cofounder Bill McKibben said in a statement. “There’s much work to be done taking on coal, oil, and gas but the momentum is definitely on our side.”

Since the launch of its coal divestment campaign in 2012, 350.org says, institutions and local governments have pledged to withdraw $50 billion in assets from fossil fuels.

Henderson: 704-358-5051;

Twitter: @bhender