The top executive of one of the largest coal-burning power companies in the US has signed a deal with China's largest utility to develop solutions to cut global greenhouse gas emissions.
Jim Rogers, chairman, president and CEO of Charlotte, North Carolina-based Duke Energy Corp., on Monday signed an agreement in Beijing with China Huaneng Group that provides for the companies to share information on renewable-energy and clean-energy technology with the goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
Both countries have a lot in common when it comes to energy: China is now the No. 1 producer of greenhouse-gas emissions and the US is No. 2. The two countries account for 40 percent of the world's total emissions. Both also heavily count on coal to drive their economies, with Duke using coal to generate about two-thirds of its electricity. State-owned China Huaneng produces about 10% of China's electricity.
"We'll see if in working together we can develop the capability to solve this problem," Rogers said in an interview with The Associated Press before he left on his trip to China.
The agreement comes as China and the US are looking for ways to cooperate on climate change in preparation for United Nations-led talks in Copenhagen later this year that will attempt to forge a framework for a global climate-change treaty. It also comes as the Senate takes up the debate on legislation passed by the House that would force an 80% reduction in the US in greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050.
Rogers sees the relationship between Duke and China Huaneng as one where executives from both companies meet to exchange information and explore ways to reduce emissions from coal plants while developing renewable sources of electricity from wind, solar, biomass and other sources. One key area will be developing technology to capture carbon from coal-burning plants and burying it, along with coal-gasification plants similar to one that Duke is building in Indiana.
"If our two countries can come up with technical solutions and work together... that increases the probability that we have a stronger relationship with them, and ultimately we can reach agreement on the best way forward to address climate," Rogers said.
He envisions the agreement with China Huaneng as being the first of several with Chinese companies. The agreement is open-ended, and Rogers acknowledges he is not sure exactly how the relationship will develop.
"In 2009, we can't predict what we'll enable in terms of the efficient use of electricity until we get about the business of deploying it," he said.
Rogers said Duke has plenty it can learn from the enormous growth of the Chinese when it comes to energy and constructing homes and businesses with the idea of making customers more energy efficient, something Duke is emphasizing with its four million US utility customers in the Carolinas, Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky.
It also comes at a time when Rogers said Duke needs to replace its entire generation fleet by 2050 with modern plants that emit less carbon.
"The Chinese are a natural partner for us in achieving those objectives," he said.