October 22, 2013
From North Carolina's role in pioneering smart grid technology through a dramatic growth in utility scale solar power to a rapid proliferation of electric vehicle infrastructure - there are dramatic changes going on in how energy is produced and consumed in North Carolina. These changes reflect trends that are happening across the Globe, but how they play out in our region will depend on a broad range of factors from the legislative to the economic to the technological.
Lowell Sachs, Communication Director at NC Sustainable Energy Association, believes these trends will only accelerate. As his organization prepares for its annual conference, Making Energy Work (November 5th and 6th at the Raleigh Convention Center), he argues that we would all do well to understand the dramatic changes that are coming:
"Apple just installed a 20MW solar array in Maiden. Duke Energy is offering clean energy to large commercial customers. Clean energy investment has become an increasing boon to rural communities and local businesses. And we've been listed among the top states for installed solar in the last couple of quarters. These trends are not going away - and there's every reason to believe they will accelerate. There's still a lot of uncertainty, however, as to what exactly the future of energy in North Carolina will look like. And that's what the conversations at Making Energy Work will be all about."
Over 500 attendees are expected at the Making Energy Work conference, including representatives of utilities and independent power producers, business people, legislators, academics and investors. Topics on the program include sessions on legislation, technology research & development, evolving business models for energy companies, smart grids, plug-in electric vehicle integration, financing and global trends in the clean energy sector.
Sachs points to a recent report from the Edison Institute, which argues that the combination of distributed, intermittent sources of power and the increasing availability of energy storage represent a fundamental, potentially existential, threat to the traditional utility business model. Rather than circling the wagons, however, Lowell suggests that it is time for all players to embrace innovation:
"You can try swimming against the tide, or you can ride the wave. The integration of clean energy into our society and economy here in North Carolina can be an evolution toward greater affordability, innovation and resilience to the benefit of all. But we have to play our cards right, and that means grappling with some complex questions. No single stakeholder is going to have all the answers, but there has been enough positive development in recent years that we can already see some promising trends.”