Can we find common ground on global warming?

By Stuart Price, RSVP Communications

April 11, 2005 — How can utilities that rely on coal reach out to their stakeholders – including investors as well as dedicated stakeholders who are absolutely, positively opposed to using fossil fuels – and convince them that they are interested in addressing climate change?

Releasing a document titled – “Can We Find Common Ground on Global Warming?” – is one way to start. That’s what Cinergy did with its 2004 Annual Report.

Based in Cincinnati, Cinergy’s regulated branch serves 1 1/2 million electric customers and 500,000 gas customers while its commercial business portfolio generates 6,300 MW. Satisfying these customers with affordable power means burning 25 – 30 million tons of coal per year. This makes Cinergy one of the nation’s top coal consumers.

This being the case, many onlookers would expect Cinergy to close ranks with fellow power companies and mount an overall defense against naysayers who trumpet the dangers of greenhouse gases and climate change and advocate strict controls.

But Jim Rogers, Cinergy’s President and CEO, sees things differently. “Jim championed the strategy to base this year’s annual report on the global warming question,” said Mark Craft, Cinergy’s General Manager of Strategic Communications.

Printed on recycled paper, this annual report notes several reasons why power companies should start coping with the climate change challenge right now (www.cinergy.com/pdfs/reports/04sar/04AR01_Complete.pdf):

1) Several members of the U.S. Congress have introduced credible legislation to control greenhouse gases

2) While there are not yet any federal limits on GHG or CO2 emissions, several states have implemented such regulations

3) Thirty-eight industrial nations (absent the U.S.) have chosen to implement the Kyoto Protocol – an international treaty that promotes trading GHG emission credits to stem climate change

4) Investors, including the California Public Employees Retirement System, have begun asking companies to quantify risks associated with GHG emissions

5) GHG and CO2 trading markets have emerged in the U.S. and Europe

6) Global warming has become part of the national consciousness.

Even further, the report comprises dialogue with 23 persons representing eight stakeholder groups (e.g., investors, customers, employees, policymakers, regulators, suppliers, partners, and neighborhood communities). By reaching out to these individuals – and having them state how the global warming issue affects them – the company starts a genuine dialogue intended to find common ground.

For instance, Denise Furey – senior director of Fitch Ratings Global Power Group – explains how climate change concerns are beginning to impact financial management strategies. Judy Gammon – a high school science teacher in Kentucky – describes how she feels education is key to confronting climate change. U.S. Senator Richard Lugar from Indiana stresses today’s need to develop new technologies that can support power systems in developing countries. Bill Reilly – former administrator of the U.S. EPA and co-chair of the National Commission on Energy Policy – explains how the news media often places nondescript commentators on a par with distinguished scientific authorities when covering climate change.

“We’ve asked our stakeholders to give us their perspectives on the global warming issue,” states Jim Rogers. “It is a first step toward a collaborative decision-making process on this complex topic. We thank our stakeholders for sharing their candid thoughts and opinions and, most of all, for their willingness to work with us in finding common ground.”

About Stuart V. Price

Stuart V. Price (svprice@comcast.net) is principal with RSVP Communications in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area. His specializes in reaching out to stakeholders in the energy, engineering, and environmental fields.

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