Buncombe energy task force holds June meeting

PROGRESSIVE POSSE: Members of the Energy Innovation Task Force gathered on Friday, June 10 to discuss Buncombe County's energy future. Photo by Lee Elliott

Buncombe County’s Energy Innovation Task Force held its second meeting on Friday, June 10. The group, formed in April 2016, brings together city and county officials, local business leaders, nonprofits, environmental activists and Duke Energy to develop a progressive approach to the area’s future energy needs.

This month’s discussion focused on establishing working groups to develop or promote programs to educate the public and advocate responsible energy use to the community.

The work group focused around community programs will be chaired by Sam Ruark, executive chair of the Western North Carolina Green Building Council.

The work group for researching technical solutions to Buncombe’s energy issues will be chaired by Robert Sipes, general manager of Duke Energy’s Western Carolinas territory.

A work group for promoting community engagement and sustainable energy habits will be chaired by Jason Walls, Duke Energy’s Asheville community and government relations manager.

The peak energy consumption work group will be chaired by Brownie Newman, the Vice Chair of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners.

During the time allotted for public comment, members of the audience brought forward concerns about the impact of green energy policy on low-income populations in Buncombe County.

Asheville City Council member Julie Mayfield assured the public that task force members will be aware of and sensitive to the needs and concerns of low-wealth communities as the work of the task force moves forward.

“We have to be doing all this work with equity in mind,” Mayfield said.

Although the group combines the best and brightest energy minds in Buncombe County, Mayfield was quick to admit the task force has its work cut out for the next few years.

“We’re building this airplane as we’re flying in it,” Mayfield said.

The next meeting is scheduled for July 8 at 10 a.m. on the sixth floor of Asheville City Hall. Lunch will be served at the three-hour meeting, which will focus on educating the public on the ins and outs of energy policy.

UPDATE June 15, 2016, 4:35 p.m.

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the date of the next meeting. The meeting will take place on July 8, and the text has been updated.

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