CHICAGO - In a keynote address hosted by the Bipartisan Policy Center today, Exelon Chairman and CEO John W. Rowe reflected on his nearly three decades as a key voice on energy and environmental policy and urged elected officials to take an economic approach to transitioning the nation to a clean, affordable energy future.
"I've run companies in economic boom times and recessions, in regulated states and market states. In every case, I've tried to lead somewhere worth going," said Rowe. "Our Exelon 2020 commitment to eliminate the company's entire carbon footprint by 2020-and to publicly advocate for the lowest-cost path to clean energy-is leading somewhere worth going."
Rowe discussed the company's latest Exelon 2020 analysis, which found that by letting competitive electricity markets work, the electric utility industry can slash harmful air pollutants for as little as one-quarter the cost of other politically popular approaches, such as subsidizing favored energy technologies like wind, solar, new nuclear and clean coal.
"Letting the market work, not imposing new mandates and subsidies, is the right way to transition the electricity generation fleet to clean energy while maintaining reliability and affordability," Rowe said.
Exelon 2020 is an annual study of the most cost-effective ways to reduce carbon emissions. This year's analysis went beyond carbon emissions to examine nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and toxic air pollutants targeted by EPA clean air rules.
"While complying with EPA regulations is not without cost, it can be done at prices that are still very reasonable and without sacrificing reliability, especially given that natural gas prices are expected to stay low for at least the next decade," Rowe said. "Congress should not stop the EPA from enforcing the Clean Air Act. Postponing these rules will delay the creation of new jobs across the country to install pollution controls and build new generation at a time when economic benefits and investment are desperately needed."
Rowe, who plans to retire in early 2012, also highlighted six attributes of successful leadership, based on his 28 years as a utility chief executive. These include:
• An unflagging commitment to continuous learning
• An ability to act despite uncertainty
• A personal appreciation and regard for the people who make up the organization
• A total commitment to the organization, its vision and its values
• Confidence in the future and certainty of success
• Leading somewhere worth going
"Truly successful leaders are active inside their business and externally," said Rowe. "Thought leadership and civic leadership are equally as important as corporate success. I always think about how well I am serving my customers and the community, both through the business and outside it."
Rowe is the utility industry's longest-serving chief executive. He was among the first CEOs in the industry to focus on climate change, first testifying before Congress on the potential effects of carbon emissions in 1992. Rowe is the past chairman of the Nuclear Energy Institute and the Edison Electric Institute. He was co-chairman of the National Commission on Energy Policy and serves on the Secretary of Energy's Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future, a panel to provide recommendations on managing used nuclear fuel and waste. Rowe will retire in early 2012 upon the expected closing of Exelon's merger with Constellation.
Rowe's speech today was the inaugural address in a new "On Leadership" speaker series at the Bipartisan Policy Center. Founded in 2007 by former Senate Majority Leaders Howard Baker, Tom Daschle, Bob Dole and George Mitchell, the Bipartisan Policy Center is a non-profit organization that seeks to combine politically-balanced policymaking with strong, proactive advocacy and outreach.
Rowe's prepared remarks are available on the Exelon website at http://www.exeloncorp.com/Newsroom/speeches. A video of Rowe's speech is available at http://www.bipartisanpolicy.org/news/multimedia/2011/11/04/leadership-speaker-series-john-w-rowe.