This Independence Day, July 4, 2017, climate activists and concerned citizens will peacefully protest Duke Energy’s construction of a gas-fired power plant in Arden, NC. Local nonprofit, Community Roots are organizing the lake-based event to ask that the City of Asheville and Buncombe county be powered by 100% renewable energy by 2050 in accordance with House Resolution 401 introduced to the NC state legislature in March 2017. This resolution has already been passed in Boone, Watauga County and Sylva. Groups across the state are working to pass the resolution through the North Carolina Climate Solutions Coalition (NCCSC) of which Community Roots is a member. The Asheville City Council votes on the resolution in June. Meanwhile Mayor Manheimer, along with 273 other mayors, have already agreed to committed to stay with the goals of the Paris climate agreement and Governor Cooper became the ninth US Governor to publicly stand in support of the Paris climate agreement.
“It is not possible to reach the goal of 100% renewable by 2050 if all our electricity comes from Duke Energy and they continue with their plans to build two new gas-fired plants instead of developing their renewable capacity” said Kat Houghton, PhD, a Community Roots board member, “either Duke need to start investing in infrastructure for renewable energy production or we need our independence from Duke so we can purchase electricity from renewable providers.”
Community Roots chose the July 4th date to help draw attention to what they see as the major barrier to us becoming a 100% renewable community. The problem, they say, is not technology, North Carolina is a leader in solar energy production. Nor is it financial, other cities report renewable energy generates more revenue and creates more jobs than fossil fuel reliance. The group claims that the major barrier to Asheville becoming a 100% renewable community is the fact that our electricity production is controlled by a legalized monopoly, Duke Energy.
Residents of Buncombe County, including Asheville, have only one choice when buying electricity – Duke Energy. “It is clear that the Monopoly system is not conducive to the transition to a distributed, clean energy future that is by and for the people. By clinging to their monopoly, Duke is acting against the public good by protecting and expanding the centralized dirty energy systems over wide scale adoption of solar wind and other technologies which do not destroy our planet and lead to greater empowerment for the people. Monopolies are simply undemocratic and do not represent a free market approach to our economy,” says Dave Hollister of the Alliance for Energy Democracy. Duke Energy is the largest utility in the US and is protected from competition in NC by the State government in exchange for the government being able to regulate their policies and rates.
This arrangement is supposed to have the effect of ensuring access to reasonably priced electricity for all citizens. However, Community Roots board member, Tyler Garrison argues that “the current effects of the legal monopoly are that residents are locked into paying Duke’s rates when renewable energy sources could provide cheaper power and the entire community must suffer the environmental consequences of Duke’s fuel choices.” Duke is currently proposing to raise their rates by 16.7%. Duke Energy is the largest emitter of carbon dioxide in the country responsible nationally for almost 2% of greenhouse gas emissions in the USA. The proposed transition from coal-fired to natural gas fired power plants will reduce carbon dioxide emissions but, says Rita Leadem of NC WARN, “natural gas is comprised mostly of methane which is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Due to methane emissions from the well-head to the power plant, switching to burning natural gas won’t have the desired effect of slowing the warming of the planet, it will likely accelerate the warming.”
“We’ve tried all the ways allowed under the current structure of the law to let Duke know we don’t want fracked-gas powering our homes. None of it makes a difference because of their monopoly status. We plan to get as many people on Lake Julian July 4th to let Duke know that we’re not going to sit by and watch them continue to put our children’s future at risk.” said Garrison. Community Roots will host a free Direct Action training Sunday July 2nd for those who want to participate in the action July 4th.
The community will gather for a potluck and music at 2pm on Tuesday July 4th at the Lake Julian Park. The rally starts at 3pm in the park and will move into boats and out onto to lake in front of the Duke Energy power plant. Some boats will be available on a first come first served basis and participants are welcome to bring their own non-motorized boats.
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