From Scott Carlberg

Energy independence has typically meant weaning our nation off oil supplies from other countries. Energy is much more than oil, though. It is electricity, more and more.

On this July 4 what energy freedoms are reasonable to desire in our evolving electric system? A few thoughts.

Freedom of Availability: Enough energy when it is needed or wanted. This is for all purposes fulfilled for the nation now. Keep it that way, or improve on it.

Our nation has highly available and reliable electric service. A recent look at Power Outage US showed out of more than 325 million people in the U.S. there were fewer than 50,000 customer outages. The average outage, minus major events like hurricanes, was about 100 minutes a year.  (Source) Loss of power can happen for a variety of reasons – local severe weather, vehicle accidents that take down poles, equipment failure…

As the nation electrifies away from petroleum our power supply can gain flexibility if we develop various power generation sources – nuclear, wind, wave, gas, solar, hydro – and deliver power in continuously upgraded systems. A portfolio of energy sources. These include central generation – a large power plant distributing electricity – to microgrids – such as small solar fields with battery storage serving a neighborhood or community. Even our homes or businesses can create and use power.

Availability is a two-way street. Not just using electricity but having a sense of responsibility:

  • Tap new technology so we sip instead of guzzle energy.
  • Change human behavior; our resource stewardship to use only what we need.
  • Understand new technology and infrastructure needs.

Freedom of Simplicity: Technology simplifies our lives. For instance, a cell phone allows us to call from anywhere, stream video, message others and use apps – on our schedule. A land line was easy but limited. Cell phones seem technologically unlimited, though I feel tested in non-technical needs –  compare phone plans, negotiate for service and get bills.

Buying decisions for power should not complicate our lives. Getting and using electric service should not strain customers’ minds or bank accounts. Customers should have peace of mind when buying electricity, not be on-guard on with electric service decisions. Regulators offer a real protection for citizens in this essential service.

Freedom from Concern: This is a freedom from worry about pollution, climate change or health issues from making electricity. Tough one. Everyone has a role.

Carbon emissions are the big headline. “The warnings come with unsettling regularity:

+ Climate change threatens 1 million plant and animal species.

+ Warmer oceans could lose one-sixth of their fish and other marine life by the end of the century.

+ Global warming is a major risk to the economy,” said National Public Radio on June 19.

The story was, “Going ‘Zero Carbon’ Is All The Rage. But Will It Slow Climate Change?” Somber news story.

Still, carbon-free is a good goal and important area of research. It is happening in some places. For instance, in North Carolina, label maker UPM Raflatac’s factory in Mills River, uses electricity generated entirely by renewable sources through Duke Energy’s NC Renewable Energy Program. That was announced June 27.

Together, let’s make a difference. Everyone has a role, as we said. Speak up, learn about your electric service. Help those people who oversee a fair power system on our behalf.

Be attentive to energy system we want: Available. Simple. Worry-free.

Carolina consumers deserve to have regulators, legislators and business people who keep these aims in mind.