Governor's remarks close Energy Summit
by Anna Oakes
The leader of North Carolina capped off the second annual Appalachian Energy Summit on Friday, underscoring the event's statewide significance.
Gov. Pat McCrory shared his thoughts on energy policy at the closing ceremony of the three-day conference at Appalachian State University, which hosted leaders from all 17 UNC campuses and the private institutions of Duke University, Wake Forest, Davidson, Warren Wilson, Catawba and Elon.
Beginning with the inaugural Energy Summit in 2012, UNC system leaders set goals to reduce energy costs by $1 billion during the next two decades and to achieve carbon neutrality by the year 2050.
McCrory said that he and his secretary of commerce, Sharon Decker -- both who worked for Duke Energy -- understand that energy must be part of the solution to bringing North Carolina out of the economic recession.
"Those are the two goals that we must accomplish in North Carolina: create jobs and save money, and we can do that through energy innovation and energy conservation," McCrory told members of the media later on Friday.
But McCrory told summit attendees that he is "an all-of-the-above person" and that energy development in the state must include not only renewable sources, but also exploration of natural gas and other resources.
He said industries looking to expand or open in North Carolina must have access to low-cost, reliable energy capable of handling peak loads.
Critics of renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, have said they are incapable of providing the constant output needed for peak demand periods, but proponents say a diverse mix of renewable sources can provide the consistency needed.
McCrory drew applause from summit attendees when he said he stepped in to stop a legislative effort this year to end state subsidies for renewable energy development, but he said there must be a reasonable time in the future when those subsidies come to an end.
"We've got to be frank -- you are being subsidized," he said.
And he said North Carolina's higher education community must get better at converting grant funding for research into patents to drive industry and job creation in the state.
The governor said that, as a result of his visit to the Energy Summit, he would direct his energy policy adviser to engage with summit leaders.
Earlier in the day, Len Hoey, director of the N.C. Department of Commerce's Utility Savings Initiative, urged campuses to report energy data on a monthly basis to provide for better tracking of the system's progress.
"No more lip service -- we're going to do it," Hoey said.
He encouraged campuses to incorporate energy usage expectations into orientation for new students, faculty and staff and to eliminate all waste and "contraband plug load," including space heaters, mini fridges and other extraneous appliances.
Summit attendees heard from a panel of industry experts from GE, Johnson Controls, Cree and Celtic Energy, as well as from Roger Natsuhara, assistant secretary of the Navy for energy, installations and environment. The experts detailed energy-reducing technologies and strategies currently being implemented and that are in development.
University leaders will meet in February for a mid-year meeting to review progress on the summit's goals.
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