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Duke Energy replacing in-person shareholder meetings with online event; critic questions motive — Charlotte Business Journal

By John Downey

Duke Energy will not hold an in-person annual shareholders meeting this year, opting instead to go with a real-time online meeting May 4 with written questions from shareholders for CEO Lynn Good.

Duke says the format will allow more shareholders to participate, noting it was more than a million shareholders in 30 countries. And it says Good will be able to answer more shareholder questions — some of them live during the meeting and some in online postings after the meeting is over.

“The live webcast will greatly increase our shareholders’ access to the meeting, making it easy and inexpensive for them to participate,” says Steve Young, Duke’s chief financial officer.

Votes will be taken and questions can be submitted on a site for the use of shareholders only. For shareholders who do not have online access, Duke will provide a call-in number that will allow shareholders to listen in on the meeting.

Protest magnet

Over the years, Duke annual meetings have become a magnet for protests. That has been particularly true in the last few, with growing numbers of groups and individuals showing up to protest Duke’s reliance on fossil fuels, the 2014 coal-ash spill on the Dan River and its aftermath and what some groups contend are efforts to prevent the development of solar and other renewable resources in North Carolina.

In some years, pro-coal protesters have used the meeting to object to Duke’s decision to close coal plants and move away from coal as a fuel for producing electricity.

The change to an online meeting will take away the stage for many protests, which have been held in downtown Charlotte outside the Church Street building where Duke had generally held its annual meeting. And last year, protesters attended the meeting and stood up to shout out criticisms of Duke and its environmental records before being led out of the meeting by security.

The new procedure may reduce other opportunities for protesters as well.

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