Speak Up About the NC Clean Energy Plan

From Scott Carlberg

In North Carolina, your household, health and finances can be impacted by Executive Order No. 80 – North Carolina’s Commitment to Address Climate Change and Transition to a Clean Energy Economy. This is a process for many citizens to note, not just people in an energy discipline.

Far-reaching Impact

The process behind the order is on the NC Department of Environmental Quality website. The purpose of the planning exercise, according to the site –

“It calls for market innovations that drive economic expansion and job creation to produce a smart, resilient, and a modern electric grid while balancing reliability, cost, economic growth, equity, and environmental and public health impacts.

The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is charged with collaborating with businesses, industries, power providers, technology developers, North Carolina residents, local governments and other interested stakeholders to increase the utilization of clean energy technologies, energy efficiency measures, and clean transportation solutions. DEQ is tasked to deliver the Clean Energy Plan to the Governor by October 1, 2019.”

Further, the website says, “In developing the Clean Energy Plan, DEQ will investigate and seek feedback on a range of topics, including, but not limited to:

  • Ways to ensure all North Carolinians, including underserved communities, have access to clean, reliable, and affordable energy.
  • The role of emerging technologies such as distributed energy resources (e.g. solar, storage, energy efficiency, demand management, microgrids, electric vehicles, wind), decreasing costs of those technologies, consumer preferences, and new energy service providers. [Note from ECC: 1) Emerging technologies would also include advanced nuclear energy, which is carbon-free. 2) The ongoing renewal of existing nuclear facilities ensures that carbon-free power continues to be produced.]
  • The role of existing and new resources in transitioning NC into a clean energy economy.
  • The role of power sector transformation occurring in policy, regulatory, and utility business model across the country.
  • Creating a more reliable and resilient power grid in the face of increasingly severe weather events.
  • The ways in which clean energy can spur economic expansion and economic development, including innovation, workforce development and educational opportunities.
  • The opportunities for reducing environmental and public health impacts, including opportunities for reducing carbon emissions in the power sector and the economy as a whole.”

This charge includes technological, economic, societal, emergency planning and behavioral factors. Years have been spent looking into these issues. Years more will be spent. This order has an 11-month time frame.

The plan is supposed to be a guide for legislative work. The outcome of the process can impact all citizens, and by the nature of the system, favor one or another facet of electricity, including specific power or policy sources.

NC says it wants public input. Citizens will have to be pro-active to be part of the discussion. Much of the input activity is in Raleigh, though. There are a few sessions around the state. (There are 10.3 million North Carolinians. There are 460,000 in Raleigh.)

Any Risk?

Can there be an issue with a process like this? Sure. It is like voting. If people do not get involved, learn, and participate, the input may not reflect real public opinion. In any public input process that involves government, organizations with a certain opinion work full-time to multiply that viewpoint. Citizens don’t have that luxury.

Everyone’s voice needs to be heard. Energy is a complex topic, though. The general population traditionally has thought about electricity only when it goes out. It’s been mighty dependable.

Learn Then Speak Up

Electric energy has technology that is still fairly new, and some is evolving: Impact on the environment, carbon emissions, cost, efficiency, grid upgrades and smart technology, to name a few.  That is a lot to try and study in 11 months provided by the order. It’s a lot to leave to others, too, if it affects a family’s safety, budget or convenience. It is not something to delegate by not being involved.

A state energy plan that can impact consumers for decades ought to have truly diverse input. Not left to chance or the input of a few. Not scripted by someone else and recited.

ECC urges readers to be proactive and learn about electricity from a wide variety of sources that are objective. Then, speak up. The NCDEQ website has presentations from its first workshop for the public to view. That is a starting point, but not the whole story.

Actions for consumers can include:

  • Monitor NC DEQ: Check the NC DEQ website for opportunities to provide your thinking. Respond where it has the option. In fact, ask DEQ for more opportunities to provide input. Ask the DEQ how it is ensuring diverse input.
  • Contact your elected officials: Ask what they know about this process and our energy future. Tell them your priorities. Ask their opinions and ask why they feel that way. Let elected officials know you are paying attention to this process and care about it. You may have to be persistent to be heard.
  • Talk with your energy providers: Ask questions. Large companies have district managers to be close to its customers. In a co-op electric service this can be convenient especially now at annual meeting time. (ECC just wrote about that in a blog.)

The outcome of this energy process in North Carolina needs to serve all its citizens. Various entities in utilities, manufacturing, research and services have been positively at work every day on changes in the industry and for consumers.  This is one effort – an important one – but not the only one. This should not be a politicized process, or one just for a certain part of the state, or even who is in office now or later. Our collective energy future is way too important for that.