Tuesday, April 24, 2007

H77, North Carolina Renewable Energy Bill, would do a lot of good

As printed in the Chapel Hill Herald on Saturday, April 21st:

I was pretty cranky earlier this week. My power went out at 10 a.m. on Monday. I had to go to Greensboro for a business meeting in the late afternoon, and when I got back around 9:30 p.m. I found that my apartment complex was still pitch black.

There has been a rash of crime in my neighborhood recently -- in at least one instance violent. So I moved with trepidation toward my door since I couldn't see anything and then spent several minutes nervously trying to find the lock and the correct key.

I finally got inside safely and went straight to bed. When I got up at 6:15 the next morning I found that there was no hot water in the house. It probably wouldn't have mattered anyway though because there are no windows in my bathroom, making it the darkest place in the apartment. So I went to work unshowered, feeling pretty disgusting.

The thing I found most paradoxical about the entire episode was that our power was knocked out on a beautiful, sunny day!

One person who was not at all cranky about his power situation is environmental leader and Greenbridge developer Tim Toben. His farm in western Orange County, which runs largely on renewable energy sources, was generating "excess power." He relates that "you couldn't see the blades of the wind turbine, because they were moving so fast."

Folks who get a good deal of their energy from solar power were probably laughing at all of us without it the early part of this week, too.

Renewable energy is the way to go in North Carolina, and the good news is that if a bill introduced in the state House this session passes you won't have to install a wind turbine or a solar roof on your house to benefit from it.

House Bill 77 is a bipartisan proposal that would require 20 percent of the power provided by our utilities to come either from renewable sources or energy efficiency by the year 2021.

Recently, Duke Energy proposed building two new coal-fired power plants in Cleveland County, near the South Carolina border. These have been described by some environmental activists as "global warming machines."

Toben says that "wind turbines on the coast and in the mountains, sited safely away from bird migration routes, would produce 1,200 megawatts of power." This would produce roughly the same amount of power as the one coal-fired plant that the North Carolina Utilities Commission has approved at Cliffside, and as Toben points out would do the trick while producing no carbon, no nitrogen dioxide, no sulfur dioxide, no particulates and no mercury.

It's just common sense that if we can produce our energy in a more sustainable way while significantly reducing pollution, we should do it.

Where do our local officials stand? Rep. Verla Insko is one of the bill's 56 co-sponsors. The Chapel Hill Town Council, at the behest of Councilman Ed Harrison, unanimously passed a resolution in support of it at a February meeting. They should be commended for their leadership.

Speaker Joe Hackney is not a co-sponsor of the bill, but in his new position he doesn't really sponsor anything. Considering his long record of environmental leadership he will surely do what he can to be supportive.

Rep. Bill Faison also is not a co-sponsor, even though most of his colleagues on the Democratic side of the aisle have already shown their support through that outlet. It surely would not hurt for him to hear from his constituents in northern Orange County about how important it is for him to take leadership on this issue.

Also disappointing is that our major utility companies, Duke and Progress Energy, have not come out to show their support. Duke, in particular, under the leadership of chairman Jim Rogers, has made a lot of noise about moving toward cleaner energy sources. Given this, one might think they should work to see this bill passed. If you are a stockholder at either of these companies, drop them a line and let them know what you think.

Obviously this week's power outages were a minor nuisance, especially in the context of other events occurring both nationally and internationally. Nonetheless, it should help put the spotlight on the emergence of renewable energy sources as valid providers of power.

North Carolina's elected leaders have a great opportunity to show strong leadership on this issue. It's up to them to take the ball and run with it in the coming months, and it's also up to normal citizens to put the pressure on them to make it a priority.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home