Progress Energy’s Community Energy Advisory Committee (CEAC) held its first meeting this past week. Business as usual led them down the path to community rejection on their Woodfin proposal, and they have come back to the community with a bold initiative that has the potential to break new ground.
PE’s presentations from this first meeting are available to the public online on the CEAC web link: www.progress-energy.com/aboutenergy/wnc.asp, as is information about the upcoming monthly meetings. The public is invited to these meetings and can give verbal input at the upcoming meetings or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Two things about the first meeting captured my attention. The first was the statement by Lloyd Yates, Senior VP for Energy Delivery. He wondered “How do we incent people to use less electricity when it is so cheap?” If we can unpack, examine, and find answers to that question, we will be well on our way to helping solve not only our regional energy problem, but also be able to begin to tackle global warming in a reasonable and realistic fashion.
Cheap energy, as engineered by governments and transnational energy (whether oil, gas, coal, or nuclear) and transportation businesses, has basically discounted the future by keeping energy prices artificially low. Cheap energy and its consequent consumerist culture have caused rapidly accelerating global warming and ecological devastation. If we continue our addiction to cheap energy we will be stealing the safety, security, and health of our children’s future. Keeping energy costs artificially low is essentially both stupid and immoral economic and political policy.
The CEAC “charter” as formulated by PE is basically about finding “management” solutions to help them meet their obligations to provide adequate and reliable energy. I trust the Committee will have the wisdom to enlarge the dialogue to include the challenge that Mr. Yates posed. Hopefully CEAC will have the courage to address cheap energy issues and convince PE that it is in their interests to help rethink Utility Commission regulations and to lead legislative reform when necessary.
The second item that interested me was the selection of JoAnne Stafford to “facilitate” the meetings. Ms. Stafford has many credentials, including 11 years of service on the NC Utilities Commission. Although she claimed that CEAC itself was commissioned to fashion their agenda, she seemed to bully some of the Commission members who questioned whether or not the membership of the panel itself was adequate to their mission.
Ms. Stafford’s long ties to the Utilities Commission and the public perception that she favors the agenda of the Utilities themselves may make her work as facilitator very difficult. I think that CEAC would be better served to have her as an expert witness when they examine policy, regulations, and legislation that may serve its recommendations to PE.
There are at least two substitutes that I see as better neutral, third party facilitators for this process. The first is Steve Cochran whose credentials are listed in his blog on this page. The second would be Doug Orr, past president of Warren-Wilson College, who lead the College to its position of leadership in sustainability in higher education.
The next meeting of CEAC is Friday, July 20, 8:30-11:30 a.m., Location TBA.