"We're on a journey to deliver the experience our customers expect, says Lynn Good, CEO at US Utility Duke Energy.
"As we continue to meet our customers' changing needs, building a smarter, more resilient energy grid is essential. That's why we're making investments to improve reliability, integrate more renewable energy and provide customers with the information they need."
For example, upgrading Duke Energy's electricity distribution grid with self-optimizing technologies will allow the company to anticipate outages and reroute power when an outage occurs, Good said.
Deployment is underway and will build upon the smart grid investments we've already made – which have helped us avoid over 1.2 million power interruptions and save customers 162 million outage minutes.
Our goal is to have 80% of our customers connected to our smarter, self-optimized grid in the next decade.
And, we're investing in smart meters that will give our customers real-time information to better control their energy use. In 2017, we deployed 1.2 million smart meters and remain on track to finish our deployment by 2021.
Also in 2017, we provided customers with usage and outage alerts – giving them more convenience and control over their energy usage. We started upgrading our customer information system and soon, we will launch a new mobile app, giving customers access to tools that they've come to expect.
Good also underscored the company's "long-standing commitment" to the environment.
"We've cut our carbon emissions by 31% from 2005 levels and we plan to reach 40% by 2030. To help meet this goal, we're investing $11 billion in cleaner generation – while retiring less efficient coal plants," she said.
In addition in 2017, "we connected 500 megawatts of new solar projects in North Carolina, helping the state remain second in the nation for solar capacity. We also announced plans for an additional 700 megawatts of solar in Florida, built our first three solar plants in Kentucky, and acquired one of the largest solar projects in New York."
Good said Duke Energy is now one of the nation's top renewable energy providers – on track to own or purchase 8,000 megawatts of wind, solar and biomass energy by 2020.
"We're also investing in natural gas generation – a cleaner alternative to coal. Natural gas is a perfect partner for our renewables portfolio, helping us balance demand when renewable resources are not available," she said.
Simultaneously, Good said, Duke Energy in 2017 made significant progress toward its long-term goal of closing coal ash basins.
"To date, we have excavated and relocated nearly 17 million tons of ash systemwide, with 7 million tons removed in 2017 alone. We're leading the industry on this important issue, and we're committed to closing basins in ways that protect the environment and customers," she said.
Good also highlighted Duke Energy's recently posted Climate Report, which provides information on the company's "efforts to mitigate risks from climate change and lower emissions."
Duke Energy's goal, she said, "is to reduce carbon emissions 40% by 2030, which is consistent with a 'two-degree scenario,'" as discussed in the report.
Economic development, community support
Economic development, job creation and community support also remained top priorities for Duke Energy in 2017, Good said.
The company "worked side by side with communities to attract $5.9 billion in capital investment, helping create over 12,000 jobs," she said. "And, our (Duke Energy) Foundation and employees contributed over $52 million to local organizations that help our communities thrive."
Duke Energy in 2017 also continued its ongoing initiatives to build an increasingly diverse company workforce.
"As we evolve for the future, our workforce is also evolving and becoming more agile. As a company, we're supplementing this effort by recruiting employees with diverse viewpoints and skill sets – who can create solutions to meet our customers' needs well into the future," Good said.
"For instance, we hired 400 veterans last year and plan to fill 12% of our open positions with veterans. Their training and leadership qualities will be critical for our business to succeed," she said.
Shareholders reject two proposals
Also at today's meeting, shareholders rejected a non-binding shareholder proposal that did not receive a majority of shares voted, as required to pass: "Shareholder proposal regarding providing an annual report on Duke Energy's lobbying expenses."
Separately, a binding company-sponsored proposal was not approved after failing to receive 80 percent of the total outstanding shares, as required: "Amendment to the Amended and Restated Certificate of Incorporation of Duke Energy Corporation to eliminate supermajority voting requirements."
Shareholders also elected the 14 board of director nominees, with each receiving at least 92% of the shares voted.
In addition, Good fielded 12 shareholder questions – submitted online before and during the meeting – on a range of topics. The company will post responses to all questions on its website.