According to David Wallace, the western representative for the North Carolina State Energy Office, Gov. Mike Easley’s proposed new budget would leave many of the state’s alternative-energy initiatives in the lurch. Writing in his new blog on the Web site Sustainable WNC (sustainablewnc.org), Wallace reported last week that the governor “is asking that the State Energy Office close down its programs in Alternative Fuels, Green Building, Residential solar, wind and hydro power, industrial energy efficiency, and a few other bits and pieces, and continue only with its program to reduce utility bills in state agencies, universities, community colleges and school systems.” (At press time, however, Wallace’s post was no longer on the site.)
The State Energy Office has spearheaded numerous alternative-energy programs in recent years, including creation of a string of natural-gas filling stations from WNC to the coast, support of biofuels projects and development of a wind map for the purpose of siting turbines.
Wallace later elaborated: “The SEO never had any significant state funding. Our programs have been largely funded until now from a federal pot of money that will be completely depleted this year.”
Jim Stokoe of the Land-of-Sky Regional Council told Xpress, “David’s been working with us and with a number of businesses and Asheville city government on conservation projects and energy programs that are invaluable.” Stokoe said that at a March 28 meeting, the LOS board unanimously approved a resolution asking the General Assembly to approve two bills that would provide the SEO with $7.5 million per year to continue its current work.
In his blog post, Wallace added that Easley’s budget proposal for SEO “is adequate for the purpose for which it is intended—i.e. to maintain the Utility Savings Inititative [sic] for public agencies,” but that it would “allow all our other programs, and the associated program managers we fund at NC Solar Center, ASU Energy Center, Waste Reduction Partners, etc., to disappear.”