Opinion

Opinion

MARK FLEMING: N.C. needs a sound balance of power sources with more clean energy

Posted April 7, 2018 5:00 a.m. EDT
Updated April 7, 2018 6:41 a.m. EDT

Shearon Harris Nuclear Power Plant near New Hill in Wake County. Pool photo.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Mark Fleming is President and CEO of North Carolina-based Conservatives for Clean Energy.


Balance. It’s something we all strive to achieve. When I read that 52 percent of North Carolina’s energy comes from nuclear power, it didn’t strike me as indicating a sound balance of energy sources.

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No one source alone will deliver what North Carolina needs, and I support a variety of energy options.

But when only 20 percent of the nation’s energy mix comes from nuclear, the knowledge that more than half of our state’s energy comes from this one source denotes imbalance. It’s something we, as a state, should carefully consider before any legislative or regulatory body extends operating licenses or approves proposals for new NUCLEAR POWER PLANT construction.

While I support the use of multiple energy sources, I am a strong proponent of clean energy. I’m also a strong believer in innovation.

When I read that the largest utility in the country – Duke Energy – still isn’t thinking of clean energy as being a round-the-clock source, it’s concerning. A large, for-profit enterprise like Duke Energy has the financial resources and expertise to be part of the clean energy solution.

We need to move away from the antiquated mindset the utility implies in that statement and refresh the approach so that solar, wind and other renewable energy sources – combined with battery storage – are viable, reliable options.

Just recently, a utility right here in our state showed us how it’s done. Brunswick Electric Membership Corporation (Brunswick EMC) deployed a Lockheed Martin battery storage system, in partnership with Cypress Creek Renewables, that stores energy produced by a solar array to provide power on-demand, when it’s needed, any time of the day or night.

Innovative companies like Tesla, among others, have developed similar battery storage for use at the residential level, too. The technology is available, and I applaud Brunswick EMC for taking advantage of it.

I understand that battery storage may not be the cheapest option, but nuclear plants are not inexpensive either. For example, the Shearon Harris Nuclear Plant in Wake County cost all of us nearly $4 billion to construct, and costs millions of dollars each year to operate. I support nuclear energy as part of our mix, but nuclear plants are large, complex systems with numerous risks – financial and otherwise.

Ours is not a perfect world, so we have to find the right balance to make it work. Let’s tap North Carolina’s spirit of innovation and collaboration, and let’s refresh our collective approach to support clean energy solutions as a substantive part of that balance.

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