Duke Energy shareholders elected a smaller board and approved one of two shareholder proposals at their annual meeting Thursday morning.
Duke had urged shareholders to vote against both proposals. Shareholders narrowly approved (with 53 percent of the vote) a non-binding proposal calling on the company to switch to simple majority voting at the annual meeting. A spokesman said the board now would decide whether the make the change.
Shareholders rejected the other proposal, from two groups of Catholic nuns. It asked Duke to disclose more about lobbying expenses. That resolution got just 29 percent in favor.
CEO Lynn Good talked about Duke's shift in strategy in 2015, including the sale of its Midwest power generation business, the planned sale of its international operations and the deal to acquire Piedmont Natural Gas.
“As we look at the industry we're in and the transformation that is ongoing, we believe our approach and our investments should be focused on domestic infrastructure,” Good said.
She said the change would mean more stable profits and cash flows.
Good also gave updates on Duke's investments in solar and wind energy, and on coal ash cleanups at its coal-fired plants.
About 50 environmental activists from a dozen groups protested along Church Street as shareholders arrived. Inside, activists interrupted CEO Lynn Good several times as she spoke.
They called on Duke to remove coal ash near its plants and to use less gas and more solar and wind power.
“What we're doing is we are demanding that Duke shareholders, not ratepayers, be held fully accountable for cleanup coal ash pollution,” spokeswoman Kim Porter said. “We're also demanding clean energy now, absolutely no gas, 'cause we know the dangers with methane are unreal.
The groups also want an end to Duke's guaranteed profits as a regulated monopoly and they object to what they say are Duke's cozy ties with Governor Pat McCrory, a former Duke employee.
With Thursday’s vote, Duke’s board shrank from 16 to 12, after four directors retired.
See Duke's annual meeting materials at http://www.duke-energy.com/investors/