Energy Summit Explores Economic Development Impact of Renewables
North Carolina stands to gain from the nation’s transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, according to Bill Murray, Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs and Communication at Dominion Energy. “The biggest opportunity is not in the technology we have today but the technology we’ll have in the future,” Murray told an audience at the NC Chamber’s November 7 “Energy Summit” at the RTP Sheraton Imperial. Improved battery systems may hold the key to unlocking the full potential of solar and offshore wind energy, he said. “We need a Moore’s Law of storage,” Murray said, likening increases in battery capacity to the exponential growth in computing power. “We’ve been working on it for a generation, but we haven’t seen the type of progress we need in terms of scale.”
Offshore wind, in particular, has potential for North Carolina, not just as a renewable energy source but as a fertile field for job-growth. While the state is a national leader in solar installation, most of the hardware the sector utilizes is made in China. “You don’t want to do this again with offshore wind,” Murray advised. “It would be a tremendous missed opportunity if whatever public-policy support there is for offshore wind nets to the benefit of European manufacturers.” Richmond, VA-based Dominion Energy now serves electricity and natural gas across Virginia and the Carolinas, an area known for engaged universities with cutting-edge R&D programs. “There is no part of the country better positioned for the clean energy renaissance that we’re about to embark on,” Murray said. “Just take the Research Triangle here,” he added. “Y’all are ahead of over half the states.”
NCEDA member Tom White, Director of the Economic Development Partnership at NC State University, also spoke at the Summit, citing examples of North Carolina universities and colleges working to help forge a post-fossil fuel economy. Renewables offer job-growth potential for the state’s rural communities, he said, making such investments a “win-win” for North Carolina economic development. He pointed to Chatham Park, the visionary mixed-use development now underway east of Pittsboro as a likely case study in next-generation community design. “Chatham Park is being developed with all the latest energy technologies,” White said. “It has the potential to be a second RTP.”
NCEDA Managing Director Lawrence Bivins attended the Energy Summit as a guest of Dominion Energy, which sponsored the event.