Duke Energy chief Lynn Good is among the highest paid despite company’s inadequate work to tackle the climate emergency
Most Americans are aware of just how obscenely inflated many CEO salaries have become, but a new report from Joe Smyth of the Energy and Policy Institute on the compensation packages provided to the CEO’s of investor owned utilities really brings it home.
This is from the report:
Investor-owned electric and gas utilities paid their CEOs $2.7 billion between 2017 and 2021, according to corporate data reviewed by the Energy and Policy Institute.
CEOs for the 58 companies reviewed for this analysis received more than $629 million in 2021, a nearly 40% increase from the $451 million paid in 2017. That is far higher than the 14.8% Consumer Price Index inflation rate from January 2017 to December 2021.
The highest paid CEO in 2021 was PG&E’s Patricia Poppe, whose compensation totaled $51.2 million; the company’s proxy statement says that $35.8 million of her compensation package were “one-time awards intended to compensate her for compensation that was forfeited from her prior employer.”
…22 utility companies paid their CEOs more than $50 million during the five year period: NextEra Energy, Southern Company, PG&E, WEC Energy, Duke Energy, Sempra Energy, CenterPoint Energy, Eversource, Dominion Energy, Xcel Energy, Exelon, Berkshire Hathaway, Entergy, DTE Energy, American Electric Power, PPL Corporation, FirstEnergy, Public Service Enterprise Group, Edison International, Consolidated Edison, AES, and Atmos Energy.
The report goes on to explain that while the compensation packages are outrageously extravagant, most are not linked in any way to what is arguably the most urgent task of all carbon pollution producing industries: reducing emissions.
An Energy and Policy Institute report published in 2020 analyzed the executive compensation policies and practices of 19 of the largest investor-owned electric utilities in the US. That analysis found that the utilities’ executive compensation policies did not incentivize decarbonization, despite calls from major investor groups like Climate Action 100+. Of the 19 major utilities analyzed in the EPI report, only Xcel Energy’s executive compensation policies encouraged executives to meet targeted emissions reductions goals.
Perhaps not surprisingly, North Carolina-based Duke Energy does not come out looking good. Smyth reports that CEO Lynn Good raked in nearly $81.5 million between 2017 and 2021 and that the company received a “D-” grade for linking corporate executive compensation policies effectively incentivize decarbonization. Midwest-based Xcel Energy in contrast, got a “B” for its efforts in this realm.
Note: Policy Watch reporter Lisa Sorg will report Thursday morning on a controversial plan recently approved by the North Carolina Utilities Commission in which it spells out ways in which Duke Energy will be directed to reduce carbon emissions.