Duke Energy CEO: We cannot reach net zero by 2050 'without nuclear' energy

Yahoo Finance's Akiko Fujita spoke with Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good about the importance of nuclear energy in achieving net zero by 2050 and investing in new technologies that are still in development.

Video Transcript

AKIKO FUJITA: You've talked a lot about the importance of nuclear. And you know, there's obviously a lot of concerns that come with nuclear in terms of the cost overruns, as well as the safety. If, in fact, we are to meet this target of net zero by 2050, can we do it without nuclear?

LYNN GOOD: Akiko, I don't believe we can do it without nuclear. And Duke comes to this conversation about nuclear energy with a long history. We operate the largest regulated fleet of nuclear plants in the US. And just to give you a couple of statistics about a company the size of Duke, about 40% of all of the energy we produce comes from nuclear.

And a little bit over 80% of the carbon-free generation and energy that we produce comes from nuclear. And so you think about my goal of getting to at least 50% carbon reduction and to net zero, I want to keep that nuclear fleet operating as long as I possibly can, because I don't have an alternative of a carbon-free resource that runs 95% of the time, which is what nuclear represents today.

So we are committed to safe operation, of course. It's always job one. We're committed to extending the licenses of these plants. And then we are working actively in an advisory capacity and lending our operating expertise to the development of small modular technologies and advanced technologies that may create the opportunity to introduce more nuclear in the 2030s and 2040s, again as we get closer to that goal of net zero.

AKIKO FUJITA: What's the mix you ultimately want, percentage-wise, for nuclear in your overall energy mix? And how much of that can you reach with the existing reactors that are in place?

LYNN GOOD: It's a good question, Akiko, because we run a variety of scenarios. In fact, as we model the future, we're modeling hour-by-hour dispatch of our system. We're modeling a range of prices on new technologies. We're modeling how much electrification occurs, and therefore how much additional requirements for electricity there will be.

And so the one thing I know for sure is that the largest contributor to the energy mix of Duke in the 2040s will be renewables and storage. That combination we see as being 40%, maybe 50% of what we operate. And then we would supplement the rest of that with other technologies, some of which I don't even know what they are today because we're waiting for those developments to occur.

So more to come on that. And I think this-- the way we think about this decade is let's stay engaged, let's invest in new technologies, let's-- we will lend our operating expertise on the development of hydrogen and advanced chemistries for batteries, et cetera, so that we'll have a clearer picture of the investments in the 2030s and 2040s.

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