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BMW energy manager says S.C. needs renewable portfolio standard


By Bill Poovey
bpoovey@scbiznews.com
Published Oct. 21, 2013

The energy manager for BMW Manufacturing USA and Canada said he wants to see a renewable portfolio standard in South Carolina that would provide incentives for using solar, wind and other such resources that are readily available. “That would be huge for us,” Cleveland Beaufort said.

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Beaufort said Duke Energy is guaranteed a return on its investments and should be leading the way toward increased use of alternative energy resources without creating higher costs.

“They (Duke) have a responsibility to take advantage of natural resources,” Beaufort said. “They are guaranteed in terms of their return. They can drive policy in terms of making it happen.”

South Carolina lawmakers have debated related solar energy incentive measures for more than five years, but Senate and House leaders have shied away from a renewable portfolio standard, saying that despite air quality benefits it would financially reward those who participate at the expense of others.

In an interview after taking part in a GSA Energy Summit panel discussion, Beaufort said BMW has significantly reduced its energy costs through an array of renewable energy initiatives, including solar panels and methane gas piped from a landfill in Spartanburg County.

“If utilities are required to use renewables, that will force the industry to also offer incentives,” Beaufort said. “You don’t want to do it on the backs of moms and pops.”

Several economic development and environmental groups have allied as advocates for a renewable portfolio standard in South Carolina. About 30 states have the standards, which require utilities to generate set percentages of electricity from renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, to reduce emissions from fossil fuels. The policies typically include financial incentives for businesses that invest in the technology and generate power from those alternative sources. Opponents of such alternative energy quotas point to incentives reducing revenues and causing higher utility costs for other ratepayers.

In 2007, North Carolina became the first state in the Southeast to adopt a renewable energy standard. The North Carolina law requires investor-owned utilities to meet at least 12.5% of their energy needs by 2021 using renewable energy sources or energy efficiency measures.

Beaufort said BMW Manufacturing’s goal is to become more self-sustaining and carbon-free.

In remarks at the Thursday energy summit, Duke Energy Senior Vice President and Chief Integration and Innovation Officer Lee Mazzocchi never mentioned a renewable portfolio standard but said regulators and utilities should move cautiously toward including renewable energies into the mix of electricity delivered to consumers without raising costs. “No final set of rules is going to make everyone happy, including the utilities, but doing something sooner rather than later is better,” he said.

Mazzocchi said that of the utility’s 7 million customers in the Southeast and Midwest, about 3,000 use solar power, but the push for it is gaining momentum, with a lineup of advocates that includes BMW Manufacturing, Wal-Mart, Ikea and the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.

BMW Manufacturing, in a $500,000 investment, has installed enough solar panels at its plant in Greer to power the 24,000-square-foot Zentrum Museum, the plant’s heritage museum and visitor center. The solar panels were completed in a partnership with Southern Energy Management, which is based in Morrisville, N.C. and has a regional office in Greenville.

Since 2003, methane gas has been collected, cleaned and compressed from a local landfill and used to power more than 50% of the BMW plant’s total energy requirements. In 2009, the company invested $12 million in its landfill gas program to further improve efficiency. BMW has said the program reduced carbon dioxide emissions by about 92,000 tons per year and saves about $5 million annually in energy costs.

The company also has a hydrogen storage and distribution center within its on-site 11-megawatt energy center for on-site fueling of a hydrogen fuel-cell material handling fleet.

Duke Energy spokesman Ryan Mosier said in an email statement that the Charlotte, N.C-based utility “supports solar energy and recognizes the vital role it plays in our energy future.”

“We look forward to working with leaders in South Carolina to make solar policies fair for all customers, encourage the use of solar energy, and help us bring jobs to South Carolina,” Mosier said.

Democratic state Sen. Glenn Reese of Spartanburg, an advocate for solar energy, said a renewable portfolio standard is needed. He said the biggest legislative hurdle to South Carolina joining other states with the standards has been sentiment that tax incentives for installing solar and other renewable energy equipment will reduce revenues. Reese said electrical utilities should be leading the way, or they stand to get left out.

“The sun is out there and shines,” Reese said. “It’s a no-brainer.”

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