The EPA's Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines, which were reported on a few weeks ago ("South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, electric co-op leaders blast EPA carbon limits," May 4) offer a big opportunity to improve South Carolina's business environment and quality of life for its citizens. Gov. Haley, DHEC, and our power utilities should embrace them as such.
Boosting our clean power generation makes South Carolina more competitive in the global economy. Businesses are increasingly requiring that their power comes from renewable resources. In fact, the majority of Fortune 100 companies and two-thirds of the Fortune Global 100 companies have made commitments to power their business with renewable energy, and two of the biggest job creators in the state - BMW and Boeing - are local examples. It's no coincidence that these two companies have been among the most aggressive installers of solar power and other renewable energy in our state; investing in these clean energy technologies increases their bottom line and provides a more diverse, reliable power source.
Furthermore, renewable energy resources make an attractive business environment because they lock in long-term price security. While conventional electricity generation from coal, natural gas, and nuclear energy have variable, and sometimes volatile, fuel costs, the sun and wind are forever free requiring only expenses related to transmission and distribution. Along the same lines, the more in-state fuel resources we can use, the more energy independent we will be and the less money we will need to spend on buying fuel like oil, coal, natural gas, and uranium - none of which come from South Carolina. With our state spending over $21 billion on energy in 2012, the savings could be significant.
Making our homes and businesses more energy efficient will also catalyze economic investment, creating thousands of jobs throughout the state, protecting our environment and natural resources, and lowering utility costs for consumers. This is particularly important for South Carolina; our state currently ranks 39th in the nation in overall energy efficiency, and our residents now pay the highest overall electricity prices in the Southeast. Simple weatherization and retrofitting strategies can drastically reduce a home's energy use thereby reducing the power demand and emissions from utilities. Based on results of the Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina's Energy Efficiency Pilot Program, weatherizing and retrofitting 225,000 homes could save homeowners in the state $184 million over the 15-year life of the efficiency improvements. These efficiency investments would also create thousands of jobs in a clean energy industry that grew 36.2 percent in South Carolina from 1998 to 2007.
Business talk aside, we South Carolinians value our natural heritage, which is yet another reason that limiting power plant pollution and expanding energy efficiency measures is good for our state. Pollution contaminates our rivers and lakes, poisons our fish with mercury, and exacerbates climate change, which threatens our coasts, wetlands, forests and wildlife.
Whether it be for reasons of boosting our economy, making our state more energy independent, protecting our families' health, or being good stewards of our environment, limiting pollution from power plants and expanding clean power generation is a winning proposition for the Palmetto State.
If our state government denies this opportunity for South Carolinians, it will be doing a great disservice to its citizens.
Bernie Mazyck is president and CEO for the S.C. Association of Community Development Corporations. D. Lowell Atkinson is a program associate for the SCACDC.