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Nonprofit to Spearhead Charlotte region's Energy Hub

1342201983Fourteen of the Charlotte region’s leading energy companies have formed a nonprofit agency to promote the development of an energy hub in the Carolinas.


Charlotte Business Journal Article
By ,
Senior Staff Writer

Fourteen of the Charlotte region’s leading energy companies have formed a nonprofit agency to promote the development of an energy hub in the Carolinas. And they have pledged nearly $1 million per year for three years to provide the organization with a working budget and enable it to hire a full-time staff to run the effort.

The organization, called E4 Carolinas Inc., was incorporated at the end of June. The 14 founding companies each have a proposed representative on the E4 board of directors and have pledged a commitment of $50,000 to $100,000 in cash and in-kind contributions annually to the organization.

The staff “” up to three employees, including an executive director”” is likely to be hired by the fall, say the group’s designated co-chairs, George Baldwin of Piedmont Natural Gas and Clark Gillespy of Duke Energy Corp. The board should be installed before the end of this month, they say.

Baldwin is Piedmont’s managing director of legislative and community affairs. Gillespy was recently appointed Duke Energy Carolinas’ president for South Carolina.

A study McKinsey & Co. completed this spring evaluated the region’s efforts to establish itself as a national hub for energy production, manufacturing and research. It recommended establishing a full-time group focused on developing the industry here.

“The report showed that Charlotte had reached a critical mass in the energy industry and that if we wanted to move forward, we needed an entity that would focus on it full time,” says Ronak Bhatt, who is slated to represent McKinsey on the board of the new organization.

The push to get the organization started “” and to put real money behind it “” came that morning when Duke Energy Chief Executive Jim Rogers and Piedmont CEO Tom Skains hosted a breakfast of top energy-company executives to review the report.

Things have moved quickly since then, says Scott Carlberg of the public-affairs consulting company Talking Points, who has worked with the group to set up the organization. He says the E4 name stands for group’s four basic tenants “energy, economy, environment and efficiency.” The organization will focus on encouraging sound energy policy, economic development, work-force development and technology development in seeking to attract additional energy businesses to the region. It also will try to foster the creation of startups and look for ways to help existing companies in the region expand.

Carlberg is likely to be a candidate for the executive director job once it is established, say several people involved with E4. They emphasize that no job offers have been made to anyone and that no decision on the position will be made until the new board is formed, meets and formally creates the job.

“It has been natural for him to act as sort of an interim director as we got this together,” Baldwin says. “But I would not forecast what any final decisions might be.”

Baldwin and Gillespy say the organization also is looking beyond the 16-county Charlotte region that was the target when the energy-hub effort began in Charlotte in 2009.

David Dalton, CEO of Mooresville-based General Microcircuits Inc. “” one of the smaller founding companies “” says the group is looking at an energy corridor that runs essentially east and west along interstates 40 and 85 and north and south along interstate 77. “Charlotte, of course, is at the center of all of that,” he notes.

The group also seeks to leverage energy research at major universities such as N.C. State and Clemson in addition to UNC Charlotte’s Energy Production and Infrastructure Center.

The initial board, as proposed, is weighted heavily toward large “” and largely traditional “” energy companies.

Mark Pringle, director of operations for Siemens Energy Inc. in Charlotte, will represent his company. EPIC director Johan Enslin is slated for the board. Jeff Merrifield represents the Shaw Power Group. Areva Inc., URS Corp., Steag Energy Services and Westinghouse Electric Co. also have local executives slated to take seats on the board.

So far, the board has few representatives from the renewable-energy industry. Lime Energy Co., which does some renewable development but focuses on energy efficiency programs for utility customers, has its vice president, Larry Ostema, on the board. John Espey of smart-grid developer Nexgrid will be a member. And consulting firm Calor Energy’s Lisa Lee will also be member.

As the organization grows, more renewable-energy companies will be added to the roster, Dalton says.

“An organization like this facilitates networking “” and we need big and small companies involved,” he says. “The solar industry is growing here, and I think you will see them involved.”


John Downey covers the energy industry and public companies for the Charlotte Business Journal.

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