Guest columnist: Duke’s plan, our challenge

Asheville Citizen-Times Guest Column, November 20, 2015

 

Duke Energy’s new plan is a vast improvement. It’s better even though the new plant will continue to emit climate warming greenhouse gases and depend on fracking for gas supply.

The new plan eliminates the use of coal and it omits new transmission lines across environmentally sensitive areas of Western North Carolina. But the most meaningful part of the new plan is Duke’s challenge to us, expressed in the words of Lloyd Yates, Duke’s president of the Carolinas region.

In Duke’s Nov. 4 press release he is quoted saying: “We’re eager to ramp up our efforts in working with the community to reduce power demand across the region through energy efficiency, demand response, renewable energy and other technologies to work collectively to avoid building additional generation in the area for as long as possible.”

Yates’ statement embodies the essential elements of a truly modern plan for WNC. First, Duke wants to work with us. Collectively. Hooray! Let’s take them at their word and mobilize to help. Individuals, businesses, environmental advocates, and faith communities can all get involved. Let’s create a new grassroots organization like Habitat for Humanity, maybe calling it “Energy for Humanity.” I envision neighbors helping neighbors to improve energy efficiency and adopt renewable sources throughout our community, giving special attention to those least able to afford it.

Second, Duke challenges us to reduce our dependence on their fossil fuel generation. Hooray! This is the right thing for our region, our nation, our world, and for future generations. Duke wants to do it through renewable energy like wind and solar. Let’s help by getting local governments to ease permitting and application headaches and promote opportunities for people to pool their resources in community projects.

Duke wants to do it through demand response. Let’s get on board. Duke already pays customers to allow control of our water heaters at strategic times. I encourage everyone to sign up for this program and then ask Duke to provide more options. By making our demand for power flexible, we can help Duke reduce new power plant and transmission needs and make it easier for them to accommodate intermittent sources like solar and wind.

And Duke challenges us to more aggressively pursue energy efficiency in our homes, churches, businesses, and government buildings. This is the most cost-effective strategy available.

Even though our new home in Asheville was built recently (2004), my wife and I found many opportunities to reduce energy use, including replacing the lighting with LED, sealing attic air leaks, improving door and window weather stripping, adding insulation in the attic and crawlspace, insulating switch plates and installing a new hybrid heat pump water heater.

I’m confident that many homes, rental units and businesses could benefit from this kind of cost-effective retrofit.

Let’s mobilize our community to reduce our energy bills. Besides helping Duke and reducing our carbon footprint, we will make our housing more affordable and our planet more livable.

Finally, let’s remember that this is also a national and global problem.

We must continue to tell Raleigh and Washington that we want climate action. We should all say a prayer for success in the Paris talks this December.

We should ask our leaders to put a price on carbon so that we have greater incentives to do the things which will improve our health and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

I’m headed to Washington this month to ask members of Congress to do just that. Please join me and my colleagues from Citizen’s Climate Lobby by writing or calling Sens. Thom Tillis and Richard Burr, and Reps. Mark Meadows and Patrick McHenry, and asking them to support a Republican effort to address the causes of climate change.

By mobilizing our actions to help Duke truly modernize our energy system and by mobilizing our voices for national and global action, we can help improve our local environment and economy and help avert catastrophic climate change.

Brad Rouse is a volunteer with Citizens Climate Lobby in Asheville, and has more than 20 years experience in consulting with utilities in long-range system planning.