Utility CEO Speaks Truth

Stephen Smith | August 17, 2011 | Climate Change, Coal, Energy Policy

I wanted to share with you an article I read by Don Shelby of minnpost.com.  The piece, “Rising from meter-reader to CEO, Xcel’s Dick Kelly has sound perspective on the environment,” is refreshing because we get to see a utility executive who clearly understands the long-term impact his employer has on the environment.

Kelly is retiring as CEO of Xcel Energy, and as is often the case in these situations, feels free to speak his mind. Even so, from the head of a utility, Kelly’s total rejection of coal as a generation source is one thing that jumps out from the article:

“Then, Kelly said something that would get him booted from the utility country club. ‘I’d be OK if there were never any more coal.’”

Kelly discusses a number of things in the piece worth mentioning. First and foremost, he agrees with the science of climate change. But Kelly also isn’t afraid to take on our political class for inaction as well, as evidenced by this back and forth with Shelby:

Excel CEO Dick Kelly
Xcel CEO Dick Kelly

“We’ve got to get off fossil fuels,” Kelly said. “The quicker the better.”

“But, there are a lot of people in Congress who wouldn’t agree,” I said.

“I know it,” replied Kelly. “All they are worried about is the next two or six years when they run for reelection. They just keep kicking the can down the road.” 

Then he adds, thoughtfully: “I don’t know how they can deny the science. I really don’t.”

And to complete his clear-minded analysis of today’s energy industry, Kelly dispels the myth that renewables cannot compete against fossil fuels:

“I think one of the misconceptions is that many people believe that wind is just outrageously expensive. Truth is, wind power competes very well with natural gas. The technology is getting better. We are getting a lot more kilowatts out of our windmills now. Even solar has come down 50 percent in the last two years.”

At a time when rational discussion of energy policy can be rare, Kelly stands out among the crowd. Read the whole thing. Refreshing to see.

Stephen Smith
Dr. Stephen A. Smith has over 35 years of experience affecting positive change for the environment. Since 1993, Dr. Smith has led the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) as…
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