Charlotte firms hope lawmakers boost growing energy industry

1349114628Charlotte-area energy companies say state policies to tap new resources, expand infrastructure, train workers and boost manufacturing will help their industry grow.

Charlotte-area energy companies say state policies to tap new resources, expand infrastructure, train workers and boost manufacturing will help their industry grow.

“We advocate and believe in an all-of-the above approach,” said Scott Carlberg of E4 Carolinas, the new group that represents the region’s energy industry. “We need policies that promote the safe development of various energy sources and the ability to encourage manufacturing in-shore and near-shore.”

Mooresville’s General Microcircuits, which sells microprocessors, has seen its energy-related business surge from 15 percent in 2003 to around 65 percent now.

“We’ve been able to attract a lot of business from all the energy sectors,” said CEO David Dalton. “The more acceptable our state government is to all the above, the better it’s going to be for our business.”

Piedmont Natural Gas favors “responsible” development of domestic gas supplies. It favors hydraulic fracturing, the drilling of shale deposits approved by N.C. legislators last summer, and offshore drilling.

“We don’t think natural gas and the environment don’t fit together – they’re certainly compatible,” said spokesman David Trusty.

Piedmont advocates more efficient permitting processes for infrastructure projects, such as the 133-mile pipeline it’s building between Iredell County and the Wilmington area. But it wants more aggressive regulation to make people check with utilities before digging, a frequent cause of broken lines.

Energy efficiency and small-scale power generation could become key parts of a comprehensive energy policy to lower manufacturing costs, said Lime Energy vice president Larry Ostema, while investments in grid reliability would benefit utilities and customers.

The Huntersville company focuses on energy efficiency programs for utilities, government agencies and private enterprises.

Duke Energy in recent years has lobbied for legislation simplifying its ability to bill customers for the pre-construction costs of new nuclear plants. Duke hasn’t crafted its legislative priorities for 2013, including that issue, spokesman Mike Hughes said.

“We’ll clearly be involved in many of the big issues that the General Assembly will be tackling, such as tax reform and unemployment insurance,” Hughes said.

By Bruce Henderson,
The Charlotte Observer
bhenderson@charlotteobserver.com
Posted: Saturday, Sep. 29, 2012
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