Spotlight On: Melissa Seixas, Florida President, Duke Energy

Spotlight On: Melissa Seixas, Florida President, Duke Energy

2023-04-05T13:17:53-04:00March 30th, 2023|Energy, Infrastructure, Spotlight On, Tampa Bay, Utilities|

2 min read March 2023 Invest: caught up with Melissa Seixas, Florida president of Duke Energy, to discuss how the company is innovating their approach to energy with a focus on affordability and a greener future. “As we make more investments in solar, that can contribute to keeping affordability there for our customer,” she said. 

What is your assessment of the energy industry in Florida?

This industry requires thoughtful planning, so it’s critical to have people who can make those forecasts. We look at different drivers that give us indicators of growth in the region as more customers move into the state, especially as it pertains to the areas they’re relocating to. There isn’t just migration to urban areas, but growing interest in formally rural areas like The Villages in Central Florida. These types of locations are becoming much more sought after and are seeing their own type of population boom. This data helps us predict what our growth will be so we can match our investments to the infrastructure that can provide a reliable source for the grid. And in everything we do, we are looking at a future that reduces our carbon footprint and achieves our core green energy goals. 

 What is Duke Energy doing to keep energy more affordable for customers?

This is something that is a part of every single conversation we have, whether internally or in our interactions with customers. There are still major economic factors impacting customers, from those still getting out of the pandemic to inflation and rising interest rates increasing the cost of living. We have expanded and diversified our efforts and services to help customers navigate that. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) has been a lifeline for many people facing financial hardships who might be falling behind on their energy bills.

The biggest hurdle is that a lot of these factors are out of our control, but we are wholly committed to turning over every stone to find increased savings for customers. For example, commodities like natural gas have reached historically high levels in pricing over the past two years. Like most utility companies, we have pass-through costs, paying what the market price is and in turn making no profit off that. We have to be proactive in using as many resources as we can, whether it’s partnerships with nonprofit organizations or tax savings — to help customers. As we make more investments in solar, that contributes to offsetting high natural gas prices. 

As a result of the company’s continued commitment to solar investments, Duke Energy Florida is already passing approximately $56 million of corporate tax savings annually to customers from the Inflation Reduction Act. For residential customers, this resulted in a decrease of $1.90 per 1,000 kilowatt-hours beginning in January 2023. Additionally, the company is refunding customers another $11.7 million in tax savings from 2022 solar generation.

We will continue to look for creative solutions to provide rate relief and focus our efforts to deliver the best possible service for our customers.

How is Duke Energy educating customers about more efficient energy consumption?

Customers are empowered to help manage their usage, but it’s not always intuitive. A big part of our role is meeting customers where they are and sharing information that gives them options on how to manage their consumption in a personalized way. We’ve installed over two million smart meters, which give customers real-time data, much like a cell phone bill. Customers can set a threshold if their bill hits a certain dollar amount and we can notify them when they’re close. There is also a messaging system to provide them with information including an energy-saver toolbox to see some of the things they can adjust. Our platform allows customers to pick their own due date, which is important if on a fixed income like social security or long-term disability. Sometimes customers who need assistance haven’t had to face this situation before, so we are sure to approach these conversations with empathy.

What are Duke’s green energy goals for the future?

Clean energy goals are our business strategy and transforming into a greener future is the core mission. We’ve accelerated the retirement of our last two coal units which we will finalize in 2034. Having that long-term outlook allows us to figure out what technologies will replace that. We are also proud of our solar investments. Since 2017, we’ve had a consistent and methodical approach to investing in renewable energy sites. It’s a complex process when it comes to siting the location and choosing the infrastructure that goes with it to get the power onto the grid and to customers. By the end of 2024, we will have a solar generation portfolio representing over $2 billion of investment, about 1,500 MW of emission-free generation and approximately 5 million solar panels in ground.

How are partnerships key to Duke Energy’s success?

We provide a life-critical service, and diverse partners are central to power our communities. Whether it’s the Florida Public Service Commission or Office Emergency Management, we are working with all government entities to make sure this work is done right. The same is true at the local level, where we have relationships with all county commissioners, mayors and council members across all of Florida’s 35 counties. Another key aspect is our partnerships at the local community level. Duke Energy is very grateful for the many diverse partnerships with organizations ranging from education to business and social service agencies to the arts.  Faith-based leaders and nonprofits carry so much insight and experience that we lean on them to understand the needs of our residents. We are not alone, and it is a major part of our investment in the local community.

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