Energy Independence Panel

SAV FRANZ

On Nov. 16, the ENVS 230 class “The Role of Coal in Society” and the Creative Writing Department collaborated to host an energy independence panel discussing the current state and future of energy resources and use.

The panel featured Jimmy Flythe, regional director for the government and community relations of Duke Energy of the Western Carolinas, Lindsey Smith of the Winston-Salem Office of Sustainability and, Jim Warren Executive Director of NC Warn, a nonprofit group concerned with transitioning to affordable, sustainable energy, as well as a watchdog group of Duke Energy.

The panel was hosted by junior Keeleigh Utt, posing various questions asking each panelist what the long term goals are of who they are representing, and where they see the energy industry in fifty years. The floor was open for audience questions as well.

The relationship between Duke Energy and NC Warn was made clear when in Warren’s opening statement he said, ”Duke Energy is going head-on in the wrong direction for climate change and economic justice”. Flythe defended Duke Energy, claiming their primary goal is to provide “reliable, affordable, safe energy for our customers.”

According to their 2016 sustainability report, since 2005, Duke Energy has decreased carbon emissions 29 percent. Ever since the use of hydraulic fracturing to obtain shale gas in the U.S., natural gas has become one-third of their energy, but their highest energy use still being nuclear at one-half.

Flythe claimed Duke Energy believes in climate change, but where NC Warn and Duke Energy differ is the pace at which they plan to turnover to sustainable power. Warren rebutted that while reduced carbon emissions are good, Duke Energy still releases mass amounts of unburned methane out into the atmosphere, which has lead to a new issue for addressing climate change.

On the topic of the future of sustainability in Winston-Salem, Smith stated that the primary goal is to reach a point of stability, and perhaps when sustainable energy becomes more affordable, a larger plan for the switch will be made.

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Warren discussed NC Warn’s sustainability plan “Clean Path 2025” which is described as “an energy strategy focused on implementing local solar power, battery storage, and energy efficiency measures to quickly replace fossil fuel-generated electricity and eliminate the resulting pollution.” Warren claims that when this plan was presented to Duke Energy CEO Lynn Goode, she responded by preventing the State Utilities Commission from debating this plan.

Battery storage of energy was discussed by all panelists. Warren applauded the great breakthroughs in battery storage.  Flythe commented that Duke Energy has projects testing out battery storage and, as it develops, they will consider the technology more. For now, however, they are investing in the grid and some various microgrids.

“This whole field is shifting quite rapidly,” Warren stated in regard to the development of sustainable energy and the relative costs of solar energy decreasing. He hopes to see Duke Energy strive to expand its utilization of solar energy. Warren also stresses that to reach a sustainable future, there must be more cooperation between Duke Energy, NC Warn, and the customers of Duke Energy.

“We simply do not have time to waste, not even another day”, Warren advised, encouraging people to get involved in their communities and talk to their energy provider to make change.

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