Panel details energy action plan

Ben Hagood

COLUMBIA — South Carolina emissions could be brought back to 1990 levels by 2020, and 10 percent of energy could come from renewable sources and new efficiency standards — if the state adopts a set of 50 recommendations outlined in a report due out this month from Gov. Mark Sanford's Climate, Energy and Commerce Advisory Committee.

"The governor asked us to look carefully at how we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions in South Carolina and at the same time increase opportunities for growing our economy and also to have a sound energy plan," said outgoing Rep. Ben Hagood, a Republican from Sullivan's Island tapped to lead the group.

The committee marked the first effort of its kind at the state level; it was formed by Sanford's executive order in February 2007.

"We're looking forward to the task force's recommendations," Sanford press secretary Joel Sawyer said. "While a lot of the challenges we're facing, like energy costs and climate change, are much bigger than South Carolina, we want to see what our state can do in terms of offering solutions."

Hagood said the recommendations would need to be instituted through legislation, regional planning, new policies, executive orders, tax incentives and credits, community interest and local government ordinances.

The committee is finalizing the report, which will be posted on its Web site. There, the public can submit feedback to be included in an appendix to be wrapped up in a final version presented to Sanford and legislators in the fall, Hagood said.

"What we're really talking about here is how we use and consume energy," Hagood said. "There is an environmental component, a financial component and a national security component; it's about how we use energy in our homes and our businesses and in our cars and during our recreational time."

The recommendations fall into several categories:

--Developing energy efficiency programs to help residential, commercial and industrial consumers reduce energy use.

--Enhancing education efforts.

--Drafting a renewable energy portfolio, which would encompass new nuclear energy proposals.

--Improving development patterns and upping efforts to reduce transportation pollution.

If South Carolina embraces the report, it would be the second state in the Southeast to take such an aggressive stance, Hagood said. North Carolina is the only other Southeastern state to do so, and 20 states are in various stages of developing climate action plans, he said.

The report represents the work of more than 100 stakeholders, including representatives from the academic community, nonprofits, environmentalists and electric utilities.

Given the compromise from that cross-section, John Clark, director of the state Energy Office, said he is hopeful that the state will take on the recommendations while there is momentum.