Duke Energy's annual meeting is Thursday, but don't try to go to uptown Charlotte and vote your shares. This year’s meeting will be at a secret location, beamed to shareholders via telephone and internet. Protesters say they'll be at Duke's headquarters anyway.
Duke announced in March it would join a growing number of large U.S. companies that hold annual meetings online.
"We’ve talked to a number of shareholders and governance experts and many of those in that cross section that we spoke with are very excited about this," said Duke spokeswoman Catherine Butler.
But this means shareholders will be able to join and submit questions by telephone or internet only.
Shareholder advocates like the Council of Individual Investors say online-only meetings should be a supplement - not a substitute - to traditional meetings.
Investors will get a password for a special website where they can watch and submit questions. Butler says that makes it easier for a larger number of Duke's more than one million shareholders to participate.
One thing about the meeting won't change: Protesters are expected outside Duke's uptown Charlotte headquarters. Environmental and social justice groups say they’ll rally against the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline and coal ash pollution near Duke power plants, as well as for more solar power.
The meeting begins at 12:30 p.m. CEO Lynn Good will answer questions submitted in advance and online. Shareholders will vote in the annual election of directors, and on resolutions proposed by the company and shareholders.
Among the shareholder resolutions up for a vote are proposals to require:
- An annual report on Duke's lobbying expenses. The company recommends a "no" vote, saying large companies have a right to lobby and that it already discloses lobbying information to the public.
- An assessment of how climate change - specifically a two-degree increase in average global temperatures - would affect Duke's businesses. The company recommends a "no" vote, saying it's already addressing climate change by closing coal-fired plants and other moves. And Duke says most of the information requested is already in its public disclosures.
- And a report on the health effects of Duke's use of coal to power some of its plants. Duke recommends a "no" on this one, too.
See Duke's 2017 Proxy Statement with information about the shareholder proposals and other items to be voted on at the meeting, Duke-Energy.com