Former Mexican President Felipe Calderón told energy engineers in Charlotte Wednesday that ending the use of fossil fuels is essential to halt climate change, and it's actually good for the global economy.
Calderón was Mexico's president from 2006 to 2012, and now chairs the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate. He said it's often argued that we have a choice between the economy and the environment.
“That is a false dilemma,” he said. “We don't need to choose between economic growth and prosperity, and environmental responsibility. It is possible to reduce poverty and it is possible to reduce carbon emissions at the same time.”
Calderón and Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good were the first two speakers at the opening of the World Energy Engineering Congress at Charlotte Convention Center.
Calderón noted that economies from California to the European Union have seen gross domestic product growth of more than 20 percent, while cutting carbon emissions. But he warned that global leaders must take major steps before 2030, when the "window of opportunity" to avert climate disaster will close.
Calderón called for faster adoption of renewable energy, a reduction in automobile-based transportation and an end to government subsidies for fossil fuels.
Good noted that Duke Energy is shutting coal plants, and replacing them with gas-fired ones, while also adding solar and wind power. She said Duke also is hoping to win new licenses for its nuclear plants, which account for half the energy produced in the Carolinas.
Good warned that the transition will not happen overnight.
"We like the diversity of nuclear and natural gas, and hydro and renewables," Good said. "And for a period of time, coal will also be part of the picture at Duke Energy."
As the company shifts its energy mix, Good said the company has to make sure electricity remains reliable and affordable.
She also said customers are expecting more from the company these days, especially when it comes to information about power outages after big storms like Hurricane Florence last month. She said Duke sent 5 million text messages to update customers after the hurricane. Customers can also sign up for the alerts online or through their phones.