An important hearing on the future of energy in North Carolina takes place at 7 p.m. this evening at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse, in courtroom 5310.
Let the N.C. Utilities Commission know how you feel about the 20-year plan presented by Duke Carolinas (formerly Duke Energy), in compliance with state rules requiring utilities to file such a plan every two years. Advocates for renewable resources will speak up for more wind and solar power, and against dependence on nuclear and coal-based electricity. Many alternative energy supporters have been disappointed by Duke's sluggish moves toward wind power in the state. Outgoing Duke CEO Jim Rogers came to the utility vowing to seriously ramp up the company's commitment to alternative energy sources, but its new 20-year plan still only calls for 3 percent of the company's output to be provided by renewable energy sources by 2032.
What's worse is that Rogers now says North Carolina "doesn't haven't any wind energy potential," a claim that is as ridiculous as it is cynical. As we've written before, until August 2011, Duke had plans for a small, three-turbine demonstration project in Pamlico Sound, but the plan was ditched. Duke's odd rejection of North Carolina as a wind power site took place just months after two prominently publicized national studies showed that we actually lead the East Coast in wind power capacity. One of the studies concluded that North Carolina, Massachusetts and Delaware could eventually generate all the power they need through offshore wind power alone. As an added bargain, such a massive effort would also create up to 200,000 jobs, based on experience in Europe, where the offshore wind industry is far ahead of ours.
Fans of non-renewable energy sources routinely dismiss wind power as a pie-in-the-sky dream pushed by old hippies, and describe it as "not ready for primetime." Those arguments are, in themselves, evidence America's well-documented, abysmal ignorance of what happens in the rest of the world. Most of us are woefully unaware that wind-derived energy is being used now - as in right now - to power increasingly large parts of Europe. In September 2010, for instance, Great Britain cranked up the Thanet Offshore Wind Project, the world's largest offshore wind farm which, when added to the UK's previous wind power capacity, can power all the homes in Scotland. The Thanet project cost $1.4 billion - financed by an energy fund that funnels money collected from polluting industries to renewable energy resources.
If you attend tonight's hearing, let everyone know there's no reason the U.S. couldn't do the same thing off the coast of North Carolina. No reason, that is, except that oil, coal and natural gas might eventually see their profits drop a little. I'd trade that for 200,000 new jobs any day. The courthouse, by the way, is at 842 E. Fourth St.