Remembering Duke Energy’s Jim Rogers: A ‘Cathedral’ Thinker
The unexpected death last month of James E. (Jim) Rogers at the age of 71 left the energy sector bereft of one of the boldest leaders in its history. Rogers, a CEO in the electric utility and natural gas industry for 25 years, amassed a jaw-dropping track record of successful mergers and acquisitions. When he retired as head of Duke Energy in 2013, it was the nation’s largest electric utility by market value.
Rogers was perhaps best known for using his perch as an industry leader to push the electric power sector to address the threat of climate change. He reduced his own company’s reliance on coal ahead of others in the industry and before the changing economics of natural gas made it an obvious choice. A decade ago, he helped form the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP), a coalition of environmental groups and major emitting companies that supported a framework for cutting greenhouse gas emissions across the economy 80 percent by 2050 using a market-based cap-and-trade program.
The USCAP framework provided a foundation for Congressional legislation that passed the House of Representatives by a narrow vote in 2009 but that was never advanced through the Senate to become law. No comprehensive federal legislation on greenhouse gases has taken root since then, several states have moved forward, and most utilities in the country are moving forward with decarbonization plans for a combination of market and policy reasons.
After his retirement (he preferred the word “reinvention”), Rogers served as a fellow at Duke University, an extraordinary move for a lifetime Kentucky basketball fan.
At Duke, Rogers wrote the book Lighting the World, highlighting the need to provide access to clean energy for the more than one billion people in the world without electricity….