I’d like to foment a grand collaborative effort to ensure that everyone on earth who lacks power gets access to clean, sustainable electricity. In Lighting the World, I detail the bold thinking, international cooperation, and political will required to illuminate the future for everyone.
I was born in Birmingham, Alabama, and spent most of my childhood in Danville, Kentucky, in coal country. As a young man I took a job as a reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader, and worked my way through the University of Kentucky, where I earned a Bachelor of Business Administration, in 1970 and a Juris Doctor, in 1974. I then served as a law clerk for the Supreme Court of Kentucky.
I began my career in energy as an Assistant Attorney General of Kentucky, working as a consumer advocate to challenge the rate increases of utility companies. Then I moved to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, first as a Trial Attorney, and then Assistant to the Chief Trial Counsel. From there I went as an associate to the Washington D.C. office of the Dallas-based law firm, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. After that I returned to serve as Deputy General Counsel for Litigation and Enforcement at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. From there I rejoined Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld as a partner.
Subsequently I served as Executive Vice President of Interstate Pipelines for the Enron Gas Pipeline Group. In 1988 I became President, Chairman and CEO of PSI Energy. I merged PSI with Cincinnati Gas and Electric to become Cinergy, where I served as President and CEO. In 2006 I oversaw the merger of Cinergy and Duke Energy, and became the combined company’s president and CEO. In 2012 I merged Duke Energy with Progress Energy to make the largest utility in the United States, and served as President, CEO, and Chairman. I retired in 2013.
Environmental and Energy Initiatives
I was the first CEO in the electric utility industry to speak about the changes needed in the face of climate change. While I was CEO, Duke Energy was recognized as a leader in sustainability. In 2010 and 2011, the company was named to the elite Dow Jones Sustainability World Index; it has been a part of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for North America for the past nine years. I’ve long advocated investing in energy efficiency and renewables such as solar and wind; modernizing the electric infrastructure; and pursuing advanced technologies and nuclear energy to grow the economy and transition to a low-carbon future. While at Duke Energy, I invested four billion dollars in wind and solar assets. I served as vice chairman of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, and was a founding member of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a collaboration of leading businesses and environmental groups that came together to call on the federal government to enact legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Since leaving Duke Energy I have devoted much of my energy to the issue of how rural people in low income nations can get access to clean, sustainable electricity. To that end, I’ve written Lighting the World: Transforming Our Energy Future by Bringing Electricity to Everyone, which outlines the state of energy poverty, and suggests that addressing this issue offers great potential for improving people’s lives in low income nations. The book also addresses the idea that reverse engineering this effort will teach us a lot about how to transform the grids of the high income nations to better fit the environmental needs of the future. I’m also teaching a graduate seminar at Duke University called Renewables and the Poor, and lecturing at all five of Duke’s graduate schools.
Advisory Boards & Board of Directors
I’m on the advisory boards of Bloomberg’s New Energy Finance, DoubleTime Capital, Invenergy, and Broadscale. I also serve on the board of the Energy Solar Association, and Solar Electric Power Association, the Aspen Institute, the Brookings Institution, the Asia Society, the Nicholas Institute on Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University, and the advisory committee for Sustainable Energy for All (United Nations). I’m also a member of the Global Board of the Nature Conservancy, and I serve on the board of directors of Cigna, a Fortune 500 company.
I’ve served, and still serve, on many boards related to energy and environmental policy. I was chairman of the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) when it changed its position to support federal climate change legislation in 2009, and also was the founding chairman of the Institute for Electric Efficiency, former co-chair of the Alliance to Save Energy and past co-chair of the National Action Plan for Energy Efficiency. Formerly, I was a member of the Boards of the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations, the Nuclear Electric Institute, and the World Association of Nuclear Operators.
Other boards I served on include those of Applied Materials, Duke Realty Corporation, Bankers Life Holding Corporation, Indiana National Bank and Fifth Third Bancorp, the United States Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, the National Coal Council, the National Petroleum Council, the American Gas Association. I was a past member of the honorary committee of the joint US-China cooperation on clean energy (JUCCE).
I speak widely on the subject of energy access, the future of the power industry, and the role of renewables at utility executive gatherings, social policy workshops and international confederations. I have spoken at symposia including the Aspen Institute, the Brookings Institution, Clinton Global Initiative and the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. In 2012 I was co-chair of the host committee for the Democratic Convention in Charlotte.
Awards and Recognitions
I’ve been privileged to have received a number of awards in my career. In 2014, I was inducted into the North Carolina Business Hall of Fame. In 2013, I was awarded the Edison Electric Institute’s Distinguished Leadership Award by my industry peers in recognition of my 25 years of service and exemplary contributions to the electric utility industry. I was the 2013 recipient of the United States Energy Association Award, and was named the most influential person in the power generation industry by Power Engineering magazine and the energy industry’s CEO of the Year by Platts. I was the founding chairman of the Institute for Electric Efficiency, former co-chair of the Alliance to Save Energy and past co-chair of the National Action Plan for Energy Efficiency. I was also named to the STEMconnector® List of 100 CEO Leaders in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). In 2011, I was presented with the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year® Lifetime Achievement Award; and the Charlotte Regional Partnership Jerry Award. The Charlotte Business Journal also named me its Business Person of the Year for 2011.
In 2011, I received the Asia Society of Washington’s International Business Leadership Award and the Committee of 100’s Business Excellence Award for my efforts to improve business relations between the U.S. and China that benefit customers, the environment, and improve dialogue between the two nations. I was also recognized by the U.S.-China Policy Foundation with their Global Executive Leadership Award.
I’ve always been an active community leader and have received a number of honors and awards for service including from the Boy Scouts of America Distinguished Honoree from the Mecklenburg County Council; the Ellis Island Medal of Honor from the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations (NECO); the 2006 Human Relations Award from the American Jewish Committee, Cincinnati Chapter; the 2005 Ronald McDonald House Lifetime Achievement Award; the 2005 Keystone Center Leadership in Industry Award; the 2004 National Conference for the Community and Justice (NCCJ) Distinguished Service Citation; the 1998 Hebrew Union College Cincinnati Associates Tribute Honoree; and the 1996 Energy Daily Corporate Leadership Award.