Sustainable WNC

The Gateway to Sustainability in Western North Carolina

Archive for May, 2007

Open Letter to Progress Energy

Tuesday, May 29th, 2007

As revealed by Ken Maxwell, spokesperson for Progress Energy (PE) and reported in the Citizen-Times on May 24, PE will soon announce a plan “to get the public involved in finding other ways to generate energy for a growing region.”

On Tuesday, May 22 at a meeting of Sustainability Alliance of the Mountains, I had shared a copy of an Open Letter to Progress Energy that we had been circulating for signatures. The letter asks PE to join a coalition of citizens, business, and civic leaders in creating a Sustainable Energy Task Force.

We have no idea if this letter was instrumental in PE’s decision “to get the public involved” or if this was on their agenda for some time. We appreciate Mayor Bellamy’s concern and know that she spoke with PE before their announcement. We applaud the result.

We hope they choose a committee with broad expertise in areas concerning energy, the economy, the environment, health, and social justice. A sustainable energy future demands thoughtfulness in all of these areas. We expect PE to come to the table in good faith with representatives from their company who have the expertise and authority to find practical solutions that do no harm, and to advise the company where public policy within the legislature or N.C. Utilities Commission needs to be changed.

Below is a copy of the original letter with signatories at the end.

Open Letter to Progress Energy

To the Board of Directors, Management, and Shareholders of Progress Energy;

We the undersigned respectfully ask that Progress Energy enter into dialogue with the citizens of Asheville, Buncombe County, and Western North Carolina to collaborate on finding a path to a clean, safe, dependable energy future for our community. We invite you to join us in a Sustainable Energy Task Force for WNC.

We believe that your choice of an oil-fired power plant is not the best choice for both our economy and our health. Over 30 years, the direct health costs will approach $60 million. Fuel costs can come close to $1.3 billion. The indirect costs to our economy, tourism, and the vitality of those affected by lung and heart disease are immeasurable.

As you know, N.C. Statute 62(3a) requires utilities to employ “the entire spectrum of demand side options.” This is not happening.

According to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, N.C. utilities spend only one-tenth of 1 percent of electricity sales on efficiency, ranking our state a dismal 46th in the nation. By contrast, the “National Action Plan for Energy Efficiency” says that N.C utilities should spend 50 to 300 times that amount to make significant demand reductions. Our goal is to forge a utility-community partnership that enables Progress Energy to meet the full intent of N.C. Statute 62(3a).

Many utilities and communities in other states are finding solutions that address their needs by more emphasis on demand reduction, renewable energy, and less polluting forms of electricity generation. As you know, on May 7 Duke Energy proposed a far-reaching demand reduction, energy efficiency effort. We hope that you will join in this effort.

We are at a crossroads for our energy future. Most experts believe we must reduce our carbon footprint by 80 percent of 1990 levels by 2050. We will need the collaborative efforts of our best minds to negotiate this transition, and the opportunities for us to create a vibrant economy based on this reality are at hand.

The loss of good-paying jobs generated by our emerging green economy is the heavy price we will pay if Progress Energy moves forward with a new oil-fired power plant in western North Carolina.

As rate payers, we are the ultimate financiers of our energy future. Seeing $1.3 billion of our money leave the region for the cost of diesel fuel - instead of being invested in our own economic development – would be disastrous. Instead, these funds should be invested as incentives and subsidies that boost our private-sector green-building and green economy industries.

These ventures, such as retrofitting homes and businesses for energy conservation, new green construction, and renewable energy technologies, will generate the good-paying jobs and growing tax base that our region needs to build and sustain a strong middle class.

Properly incentivized, these private-sector ventures will in turn yield significant reductions in energy demand, thereby obviating the need for an expensive and unhealthy oil fired power plant.

Ken Maxwell, your Community Relations Manager, recently wrote, “Our intentions are to work cooperatively with the community to meet the current and future energy needs of this region.” We are asking you live into that intention and engage with us in concrete ways. We need your expertise and cooperation. Our future is inextricably linked to your future, as yours is to ours. Before you finalize your commitment to the oil-fired power facility, please come to the table in dialogue to find the best solutions for our future. We request that you join us in creating a Sustainable Energy Task Force for WNC.

Signature Page Open Letter to Progress Energy

Name Organization

Richard Fireman, M.D.  - N.C Interfaith Power & Light,
Sustainable WNC
Sustainable Alliance for the Mountains (SAM)
Wally Bowen  - Mountain Area Information Network

Terry Bellamy  - Mayor, Asheville
Robin Cape - Asheville City Council, SAM
R. Christopher Mathis - MC Squared, SAM
Dee Eggers, PhD.  - UNCA Environmental Studies Dept., SAM
Steve Cochran - Sustainable Strategies LLC, SAM, U.S Partnership
For Sustainable Development
Christina Nelson  - SAM, Sustainable Strategies LLC, SAM, U.S Partnership For Sustainable Development
Beccah Bowman - Bowman Financial, SAM, Warren-Wilson College
Environmental Leadership Center
James L. Kammann - Kamm’s Custard Shops, LLC, SAM
Maggie Leslie - WNC Green Building Council
Janell Kapoor - Kleiworks International, Ashevillage Building Convergence, SAM
Ulla Britt-Reeves - Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
Lew Patrie, M.D. - WNC Physicians for Social Responsibility
Avram Friedman - Canary Coalition
Ned Doyle - Southeastern Energy & Environmental Expo, Rational Earth Actions Learnings Institute, Thank You
Heather Rayburn - Mountain Voices Alliance
Abigail Ann Gage Canto Farm Energy Enterprise
Ian Booth  - Sustainable Now
Mary Olson  - Common Sense at the Nuclear Crossroad
Sage Linden  - Sustainable Asheville
Kim Carlyle - Network of Spiritual Progressives
Jack Saye

Transition Town Asheville

Sunday, May 13th, 2007

This week saw the first public program that will, I believe, help define how Asheville and Western North Carolina moves into the century of what is being called “peak oil”, or more diplomatically and less dramatically is termed the end of cheap oil. You may wish to check out some of the links I have listed under this category on this blog page.

Transition Town Asheville speaks about this phenomenon and our rational response to it as an “Energy Descent Action Plan”. They used their first public presentation at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Asheville to outline the problem, describe how some communities in the United States have begun to realistically approach the problem, and then began to organize into work groups.

It is amazing that there already has been systematic, organized thinking about this issue in American Cities as diverse as Portland, Oregon (over 500,000 population), to Sebastopol, California (population about 7,000), to Thompkins County (the whole county that includes Ithaca, New York). 

One of Transition Town Asheville’s  goals is to engage our City and County governments in this process.

The convergence of global warming and the consequent climate crisis and the end of cheap oil will challenge our ingenuity and  basic assumptions of our capitalistic, hyper-individualistic, and global “free market” economic thinking.

Thanks to the wise and committed citizens who have studied the problem of energy descent. Please be on the lookout for more programming from them on our website or