Where are they now? Plans for WNC’s energy future

Where are they now? Plans for WNC’s energy future

by Joan Walker, Campaigns Director

Remember that time in 2015 when Duke Energy wanted to replace Asheville’s coal-fired power plant with massive transmission lines and an oversized gas-fired plant?

As you may recall, the community at large and MountainTrue were less than excited about the prospect of doubling down on fossil fuels to meet our area’s electricity demands. We saw the coal plant’s shuttering as an opportunity to reimagine our energy future and divert investments away from expensive and dirty fossil fuels to energy efficiency and renewables.

These technologies save customers like you and me on our utility bills, make our homes more comfortable, healthier places to live and create high quality local jobs. Investing in energy efficiency just makes sense. Compared to even the most efficient gas-fired power plants and renewables, efficiency remains the cheapest method of providing power — and one that Duke Energy is allowed to recover profits on just the same as they will on $893.2 million price tag for the new gas fired plant.

Together, we got a new plan from Duke and NC’s utility regulators: A smaller gas plant, no massive power lines, a commitment to 15 MW of solar and 5 MW of battery storage. A proposed additional 190 Megawatt “peaking” plant was taken off the table, and Duke Energy made a commitment (codified by utility regulators) to work with the community to find ways to avoid or delay building it through new technologies and energy efficiency and conservation initiatives.

In March 2016 an official community collaboration was launched when the City of Asheville, Buncombe County and Duke Energy brought together stakeholders from across the community to form the Energy Innovation Task Force. Since then, working groups comprised of Task Force members, community volunteers and technical experts from Rocky Mountain Institute have been researching existing Duke Energy and community programs, innovative examples from around the country, leading edge technologies, strategies for engaging communities in clean energy solutions and more.

MountainTrue’s Campaigns Director, Joan Walker, has led both the Programs and Community Engagement working groups and is playing an integral role in developing recommendations on both those fronts for Duke Energy, the City of Asheville and Buncombe County. In her role on City Council, MountainTrue Co-Director Julie Mayfield co-chairs the Task Force.

The first task of this group was to define the specific amount of peak-demand energy usage that would need to be reduced to avoid building a peaking unit. We discovered that every year, starting around 2022, Buncombe County customers would need to reduce peak electricity usage by 17 MW.  That’s about the same amount of electricity that would be generated by solar panels on about 3,400 homes per year. I don’t know about you but I’d definitely rather see solar panels covering my neighbors’ roofs than paying for a power plant that would cost around $100 million dollars and be run on gas that, while better for our local environment, will still contribute to climate change and pollute air and water where the gas is extracted!

While there’s still much work to be done, we wanted to share some exciting updates on the progress that we’ve made so far and where we’re headed!

  • The Program Group has delivered comprehensive recommendations for energy saving programs and projects to Duke Energy, the City of Asheville and Buncombe County.
  • In addition to programs and projects, the Working Group calls on the City, County and Duke Energy to support statewide reforms like legislation allowing third-party sales of renewable energy in North Carolina and for Duke Energy to implement on-bill financing for energy efficiency. Both are proven effective, reliable ways to make renewables and energy efficiency more affordable for you and me.
  • Buncombe County has made an initial commitment of $5.6 million dollars to improve the efficiency of county schools and buildings, incentivize a 5 MW solar farm and more. Buncombe County Commission Chair Brownie Newman will bring additional Task Force recommendations into the county’s budget planning process this spring and seek additional investments.
  • The City of Asheville has committed to $205,000 in investments in energy efficiency, is moving forward with solar for some of its buildings, and is considering investing up to an additional $1 million in existing low-income-weatherization programs to help make those homes safer, healthier and more affordable.
  • Duke Energy has announced that its investments in battery storage will exceed the committed 5MW and that Buncombe County will begin getting automatic meters in 2018.  These meters will make it easier for people to understand and reduce their energy use.
  • Duke Energy elevated the Task Force’s recommendations in a recent update to the NC Utilities Commission and will work with RMI and Task Force members over the next several months to identify viable, cost effective solutions for increasing efficiency in the area. Duke’s 2018 budget planning occurs in the fall, so we anticipate more clarity on their commitments at that time.
  • Duke Energy has hired Shelton Group, the nation’s leading marketing communications firm focused exclusively on energy and the environment, to work with the Task Force to develop a marketing and communications campaign to engage the community at large later this year.

We’re excited to see these first steps toward a new energy future for WNC, and we recognize there’s still a lot of work to be done.

None of these actions or entities alone can meet the short term goal of permanently avoiding the 190 MW peaking plant, much less a clean-energy future that emphasizes efficiency and renewables more than dirty fossil fuels. But as they say, many hands make light work. It will take all of us taking personal action and calling for greater investments in clean energy to make those goals reality.

Join us and get engaged with the Energy Innovation Task Force; attend public meetings, serve on a working group or get on the email listserve for updates and more exciting information as the year moves on!

 

 

 









Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

Mountain Xpress: Heat pumps drive rapid growth in WNC’s peak electricity demand

Mountain Xpress: Heat pumps drive rapid growth in WNC’s peak electricity demand


Mountain Xpress: Heat pumps drive rapid growth in WNC’s peak electricity demand

Did you catch this recent MountainXpress article —  “Heat pumps drive rapid growth in WNC’s peak electricity demand”? Virginia Daffron takes a look at some of the strategies that we’ll be advocating for with Duke Energy, the City of Asheville, Buncombe County and all the community partners participating in the Asheville Energy Innovation Task Force.

Through the task force, MountainTrue has joined forces with fellow community leaders and stakeholders to set an ambitious goal for Western North Carolina: to avoid or delay Duke Energy’s plans to build a new power plant to meet our region’s growing electricity demand. Together. we’re developing strategies to reduce our community’s demand through proven energy saving solutions and by fostering innovative partnerships.

We can put WNC on the path to a clean energy future and everyone has an important role to play! Click here or contact our Campaigns Director Joan Walker to learn how to get involved with the Energy Innovation Task Force.



Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

MountainTrue to Hold Annual Holiday Recycling Event at Jackson Park

MountainTrue to Hold Annual Holiday Recycling Event at Jackson Park

MountainTrue Annual Holiday Recycling Event Rescheduled to Saturday, Jan. 14

Give Your Christmas Trees, Lights & Holiday Cards a Second Life!

Because of last weekend’s snowstorms, MountainTrue’s annual Holiday Recycling Event at Jackson Park has been rescheduled to Saturday, January 14 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Area residents are invited to bring their Christmas trees, broken string lights and used greeting cards to be mulched and recycled.

When: Saturday, January 14 | 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Where: Jackson Park, Ball Field #6, Hendersonville
Who: MountainTrue, City of Hendersonville, Henderson County, Henderson County Coop Extension Service of the 4-H Project, King Hardware & Rental.

Trees can be dropped off on or before January 14; lights and greeting cards should be brought on the day of January 14.

The mulcher has been provided by King Hardware & Rental and Hendersonville and Henderson County personnel will be on site to mulch the trees. Lights will be recycled by the Henderson County Coop Extension Service of the 4-H Project.

MountainTrue volunteers will be on hand to help and serve free cookies and hot apple cider.

Don’t throw your tree away! Recycle it and turn it into nutritious mulch for your garden, plants and veggies.


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

2016 MoutainTrue Awards Recipients Announced

2016 MoutainTrue Awards Recipients Announced


MoutainTrue Awards Recipients Announced

From left to right: Jack Dalton of Hot Springs Mountain Club, which was named Partner of the Year; Jane Laping, one of our Volunteers of the Year; Brownie Newman, Elected Official of the Year; Neill Yelverton, Leesa Sluder, Peter Krull, Kerry Keihn and Catherine Campbell of Krull & Company–named Green Business of the Year; Doreen Blue, our other Volunteer of the Year; and Will Harlan, recipient of The Esther Cunningham Award. Download high resolution image.

Asheville, NC — MountainTrue announced the winners of the MountainTrue Awards, which were at the organization’s Fall Gathering held at New Belgium Brewing Company in Asheville on October 26. Award honorees are recognized for their hard work and dedication to protecting our forests, mountains, rivers and streams, and to promoting clean energy and sustainability. The 2016 MountainTrue Award winners are:

The Esther Cunningham Award | Honoree: Will Harlan of Barnardsville
MountainTrue presents this award in the name of Esther Cunningham, a Macon County resident whose concern for the environment prompted her to found the Western North Carolina Alliance (now part of MountainTrue). The award is presented to a MountainTrue member who has demonstrated outstanding community service in conserving our natural resources.

Will Harlan is an award-winning writer and editor-in-chief of Blue Ridge Outdoors magazine and an elite, long distance runner uses his talents to bring attention to environmental issues. Each year, Will travels to the Copper Canyon of Mexico to work alongside the indigenous Tarahumara farmers to establish seed banks, goat herds and clean water projects. Here in WNC, he’s been a committed advocate for the conservation of public lands and wild places. Will has long advocated for the protection of the Big Ivy section of Pisgah National Forest, and was instrumental in getting a pro-Wilderness resolution adopted by unanimous vote by the Buncombe County Commissioners asking Congress to designate expanded wilderness for the Big Ivy and Craggy Mountain areas. Will also played an active role in promoting the win-win MOU put forth by a coalition of wilderness advocates, conservationist and recreation groups that supports more trails and more public access, and also protects more backcountry and more wild places.

Green Business Award | Honoree: Krull & Company – Socially Responsible Financial Services
MountainTrue presents the Green Business Award to a local Western North Carolina business that has exhibited leadership in implementing green practices, getting other businesses to make their operations more sustainable or engaging in environmental advocacy.

Krull & Company is a certified B Corporation supporting the environment through the investments they make for their clients. From alternative energy to energy efficiency, water, natural and organic food and products and technology, Krull and Company focuses on positive, next economy companies, and exclude fossil fuels and other environmental offenders from their client portfolios. Krull & Company ensures their clients money is invested in a way that honors environmental values, and use the power of shareholder advocacy to drive corporate change from the inside.  

Volunteers of the Year Award | Jane Laping of Asheville and Doreen Blue of Hendersonville
MountainTrue presents the Volunteer of the Year Award to an individual(s) who has demonstrated consistent commitment by volunteering time at events, on program work, or through other MountainTrue activities. This year, we gave out two awards to some very deserving recipients.

Doreen Blue moved to Hendersonville from Rhode Island in 2005 and immediately got involved with ECO, one of the three organizations that merged to form MountainTrue. She started by joining our hikes, then took the training for the SMIE program to do macroinvertebrate biomonitoring in local streams. She now helps coordinate that program as part of our Clean Water Team. Doreen also takes monthly water quality samples for our VWIN program to help on zero in sources of water pollution. She has worked on Henderson County Big Sweep and Earth Day celebrations, been a member of the Recycling Team for the last 5 years, and organizes MountainTrue’s annual community-wide Christmas tree recycling program in Hendersonville. Doreen is a master seamstress, and has made the costumes for our mascots, the Bag Monster and Mr. Can, to promote MountainTrue’s recycling programs in local parades and for educational events.

Jane Laping is one of the founders and a current steering team member of the Creation Care Alliance of Western North Carolina, and as such she empowers faith communities to be advocates for the environment. Jane leads hikes, travels to Raleigh to talk with policy makers, writes grants, testifies at public hearings and plants gardens. She is an active member of First Presbyterian Church where she has helped lead conversations about the Pope’s Encyclical on the Environment, Fossil Fuel Divestment and solar powered electric car chargers for the church parking lot.  

Partner of the Year Award | Hot Springs Mountain Club
MountainTrue presents the Partner of the Year Award to an organization that has been a staunch partner with MountainTrue on key campaigns and programs throughout the past year.

Hot Springs Mountain Club have done a lot for the community over the years, including creating the Betty Place Loop and starting the Bluff Mountain Music Festival. Last year, the club created the new 3.5 mile Bluff Mountain Loop trail. This past year the Hot Springs Mountain Club and MountainTrue partnered on a two-day Bluff Mountain Bio-Blitz to document the incredible diversity of flora and fauna on Bluff. Over 50 people, including 7 college professors participated. It was a great time and over 400 species were identified – including a lichen that had never been seen south of Canada. The Hot Springs Mountain club acted as guides, hosts, and facilitators for the event. Because of the efforts of these local citizens, there is hope that Bluff will be treated as a special place in the new Forest Plan for Pisgah National Forest. Accepting on behalf of the club was Jack Dalton.

WNC Elected Official of the Year | Brownie Newman
MountainTrue presents this award to a city, county, state or federal elected official for either a specific conservation action of singular importance or for a strong and consistent commitment to conservation over time.

Brownie Newman has a distinguished career as an elected official in Asheville and Buncombe County and has worked tirelessly on behalf of the environment. He currently serves on the Buncombe County Commission where he led the county to adopt and begin implementation of a carbon reduction plan, led efforts to protect hemlock trees on county-owned land from the HWA, and now represents the County as co-chair of the Energy Innovation Task Force, which is aimed at reducing electricity usage in Asheville and Buncombe County

Prior to his service on the County Commission, Brownie Newman served two terms on Asheville City Council where he led a number of environmental and sustainability initiatives, including the adoption by the City of a carbon reduction/sustainability plan that continues to drive improvements every year.

About MountainTrue:
MountainTrue is Western North Carolina’s premier advocate for environmental stewardship. We are committed to keeping our mountain region a beautiful place to live, work and play. Our members protect our forests, clean up our rivers, plan vibrant and livable communities, and advocate for a sound and sustainable future for all residents of WNC.

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Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

Tell DEQ to Stop Duke’s Water Pollution at Cliffside

Tell DEQ to Stop Duke’s Water Pollution at Cliffside

Tell DEQ to Stop Duke’s Water Pollution at Cliffside

Click here to Send your letter NOW telling DEQ to withdraw the proposed Cliffside wastewater permit and amend it to adequately protect water quality in the Broad River.

It seems like the NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) just can’t get it right when it comes to getting Duke Energy fix their polluting coal ash dumps.  Time and time again we see the agency fall short of making the progress needed to protect our waterways and communities and the new draft wastewater discharge permit for the Rogers Energy Complex (a.k.a. Cliffside power plant) in Rutherford and Cleveland Counties is no different.

 

For years the coal ash dumps at Cliffside have contaminated groundwater and waterways with toxic heavy metals and constituents like arsenic, chromium, cadmium and others, threatening nearby residents and who overwhelmingly spoke out demanding a full clean up of the site in March of this year.

Instead of responding to locals’ call with definitive action and requiring Duke to stop toxic discharges to public waters, DEQ has fallen short of its duty…again. The draft wastewater permit converts existing streams into Duke’s own wastewater channels, papers over illegal discharges by attempting to permit them, fails to define limits for how much toxic heavy metals can flow into the Broad River, purports to waive water quality standards in a 12-mile mixing zone for some discharges and misses other opportunities to require Duke to clean up their mess. 

This is unacceptable. Our state should protect people, not polluters, and MountainTrue is encouraging all community members to speak out against DEQ’s proposed permit. Attend the public hearing on November 10 and submit your written comments online telling DEQ to withdraw the proposed permit and amend it to adequately protect water quality in the Broad River. Please don’t forget to share with your friends and family.


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

Join us for the MountainTrue Fall Gathering at New Belgium!

Join us for the MountainTrue Fall Gathering at New Belgium!

Wednesday, October 26, join us at New Belgium Brewery in Asheville for our annual Fall Gathering. Expect great beer, delicious food and some sweet, sweet jams from Asheville’s very own The Midnight Plowboys.

THIS EVENT IS FREE AND OPEN TO ALL CURRENT MEMBERS.

MountainTrue 2016 Fall Gathering
Wednesday October 26 from 6 PM to 8 PM
New Belgium Brewery’s Brewhouse
21 Craven Street, Asheville

With our proud mountain heritage, beautiful mountain vistas, lush forests and rushing streams, Western North Carolina is an amazing and special place to call home. The support of our members has helped us fight for our communities and protect one of the richest environments in the world.

Support WNC by renewing your membership and making a donation to MountainTrue today. CLICK HERE.

If you would prefer to send us a check, please make your donation payable to MountainTrue and mail it to us at 29 N. Market St., Suite 610, Asheville, NC 28801.

Thanks to our members and supporters, MountainTrue was voted WNC’s #1 Environmental Group by the readers of Mountain Xpress. Our programs represent you, your values and the issues that you care about. Here are some of the things we’ve accomplished together so far in 2016:

Protecting Our Waters

  • We launched the first monthly water-quality monitoring program in the Watauga River basin with 13 sites monitored by MountainTrue volunteers and staff.

  • We continue fighting Duke Energy in court over its coal-ash pollution at the Cliffside plant in Rutherford County and organized over a hundred people to attend hearings and demand the full clean-up of coal ash pollution.

  • We planted 6,000 live stakes that will grow, stabilize banks, and stop erosion along 12 miles of river frontage in the French Broad River basin.

Preserving Our Public Lands  

  • As a leader in Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest planning process, we helped develop a groundbreaking agreement between wilderness, conservation and recreation advocates in support of more trails and public access and more backcountry and wild places.

  • We prevented over 100 acres of clear cutting on Nantahala National Forest, helped eradicate invasive species on the Grandfather Ranger District, and raised awareness of the natural wonders of Bluff Mountain with a BioBlitz that documented over 400 plant species.

Building Vibrant Communities

  • We mobilized over 1,000 comments on the I-26 Connector project in Asheville. In response, NCDOT selected the community-developed and supported Alternative 4B for the bridge section of the project. We celebrate this victory while continuing to work to reduce overall size, improve design, and include more bike/pedestrian infrastructure.

Working for Clean Energy

  • We intervened in Duke Energy’s application for approval of a new natural-gas plant in Asheville and a new peaker plant to be built in 2023. We asserted that Duke had not made its case for additional fossil fuel capacity, and the Public Utilities Commission agreed, declining to approve the extra peaker plant. Now, we are hard at work providing leadership for the new City of Asheville-Buncombe County-Duke Energy partnership to develop and implement a plan to increase energy efficiency and grow our renewable energy infrastructure.

Engaging Citizens

  • After three years of advocacy in support of surrounding neighbors, we achieved victory at the CTS site in Buncombe County when EPA required an interim cleanup of a large pool of subsurface contamination. Next, we will make sure that the long-term cleanup plan is as protective as possible.

  • MountainTrue members and staff took lobbying trips during the 2016 legislative session to be your voice in Raleigh. We are also hosting “meet and greets” between our members and candidates vying to replace our retiring WNC legislators.

  • We brought nationally renowned evangelical Christian and climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe to  Asheville. She met with 80 faith leaders at a prayer breakfast and addressed more than 300 people in the First Baptist Church sanctuary.

BECOME A MOUNTAINTRUE MEMBER AND BE PART OF THE MOVEMENT FOR A BETTER WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA. CLICK HERE.

Thank you for your generous support of our work!


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.