COLUMBIA -- New energy-efficiency standards in South Carolina have the power to create 22,000 new jobs in the next 15 years, six times the number to come from the Boeing Co.'s expansion in North Charleston, efficiency promoters said.

Suzanne Watson, policy director for the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, said the state needs to make energy efficiency a priority. Doing so would lead to an economic boon even greater than the impact of Boeing's new Dreamliner plant, she said.

Watson was one of three panelists at a breakfast roundtable Tuesday sponsored by the S.C. Businesses for Clean Energy, the Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina and others. The event was intended to help promote the interests of South Carolina's businesses in the creation of new energy policies for the state.

An ideal energy policy requires legislative support on many different levels, Watson said. She noted the need for South Carolina to invest in its higher education institutions, including technical colleges, to develop research and a base of expertise in new graduates.

Likewise, Watson said it is key for the state's future to institute policies for water usage as well as help cut energy use by improving conditions in mobile homes.

Hamilton Davis, energy and climate director for the Coastal Conservation League, said a next step is for the state Legislature to develop a comprehensive energy portfolio. The portfolio should spell out standards for renewable energy production and construction, for example. Thirty states, including North Carolina, have renewable energy standards, Davis said.

Davis said the Conservation League will be working to drum up legislative support for an energy portfolio. He noted that Sens. Paul Campbell, R-Goose Creek, and Glenn McConnell, R-Charleston, have been leading discussions on how to meet the state's energy needs.

Panelist Grant Jackson, senior vice president for community development at the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce, said that without coal, uranium or big supplies of natural gas, the state needs to be preparing for ways to generate power in the future. One way would be to tap into the open agricultural lands for the production of bio-fuels, he said.

"We're not real far down the road, but I think there's a realization that we've got to get there," Jackson said.