In the keynote address of this year’s Carbon Symposium, James Rogers, chairman, president and CEO of Duke Energy, used the opportunity to emphasize the mounting importance of reducing carbon emissions.

The Ross Energy Club held the second annual event Friday to educate graduate students about the issue of energy efficiency in the world today and how it might be improved in the future.

Over 300 University students from a variety of graduate programs came out to learn more about carbon emission reduction and energy efficiency.

In his speech, Rogers discussed Duke Energy’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions both through conservation and the development of low and zero emissions technology. The company also plays a large role, Rogers said, in the ongoing effort to bring renewable energy to the global market.

Rogers said the goal of Duke Energy is to provide “affordable, reliable and clean electricity.” He emphasized the importance of finding a balance between thinking as a consumer, looking only toward the goal of affordability, and as an environmentalist with cleanliness as the main target.

Rogers laid out two key points that he said could help improve the country’s bleak environmental situation. The first is to modernize and decarbonize power plants.

“In the next 40 years, we will retire and replace what was built in the last 100,” Rogers said. “By 2050, every power plant will need replacement.”

He said this need for newer, more efficient power plants in turn necessitates the creation of new environmental regulations and new technology to go with them, so they are in place once new plants are built.

Rogers also pointed out the need to update energy efficiency because of the many new potential electricity users in coming decades, considering the anticipated population growth over the next few decades, particularly in developing nations.

He said that if developing nations are given the electricity they require using current technology, the carbon problem the world currently faces will be only be worsened.

Rogers also said he thinks companies should be provided compensation for energy efficiency and the development of new technology that reduces carbon emissions.

“Companies should be compensated for energy efficiency in the same way as they are compensated for building a power plant,” Rogers said. “If we get the right incentives, what we do today for energy efficiency will look primitive in 40 years.”

Despite difficulties businesses face when trying to become more energy efficient, Rogers emphasized the possibilities for the process to create positive business ventures.

“Carbon management has clearly become an issue businesses must deal with, but it also provides numerous business opportunities for proactive individuals,” Rogers said.

Rogers drew an analogy between the building of cathedrals and the building of energy efficiency, emphasizing the long-term thinking necessary in both.

“Cathedrals are built over three or four generations,” Rogers said. “The architects never saw the foundations, those who built the foundations never saw the walls, and so on.”

It’s important for our generation to do its part in energy efficiency now, paving the way for a low carbon world for future generations, Rogers continued.

Rogers closed the speech with a reminder of the challenges ahead.

“This will not be free, this will not be easy and this will not be fast,” he said. “But it will be necessary.”

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