By DOTTY NIST
Ladies sporting Easter hats heard about energy issues at the Walton Republican Women Federated’s (WRWF) April 16 monthly meeting.
The meeting took place at Cuvee Catering in Miramar Beach.
Some of the Easter bonnets were elegant, some whimsical. Just for fun, outstanding hats were recognized, and members posed for a group picture.
Two speakers addressed the group, the first being Matthew Avery, vice president for engineering at Choctawhatchee Electric Cooperative (CHELCO).
Headquartered in DeFuniak Springs, CHELCO is a member-owned, not-for-profit electric utility whose main service areas are Walton County and Okaloosa County. In addition, CHELCO serves western Holmes County and eastern Santa Rosa County. The utility has approximately 44,000 services in place.
Avery spoke of the challenge of meeting the demand for electricity in the areas served by the company. He told the group that CHELCO is interested in all types of energy sources, including renewable energy sources. One source of energy for the company is methane gas collected from a landfill.
Also speaking at the meeting was Lance Brown of the Partnership for Affordable Clean Energy (PACE). Based in Montgomery, Ala., PACE is a coalition of citizens, business owners, environmentalists, and trade organizations working toward the goal of fair and responsible energy policies—with an emphasis on energy affordability for families and businesses.
A native of Selma, Ala., Brown formed PACE in 2009.
Brown told the group that one of the biggest challenges related to energy is that “you generate power at the minute that it is needed.” He also explained that utility companies must plan and build for times of peak usage.
Brown commented that Florida is in jeopardy from an energy standpoint due to the state being “heavily dependent on natural gas.” While the cost for this energy source may currently be low, there is the possibility of it rising in the future, he explained.
Brown said that PACE advocates for the use of a “broad base” of types of energy in order to make power affordable for consumers. He spoke in favor of coal-fired plants remaining an option as an energy source. People in states with coal-fired plants pay less for energy, and countries that have abandoned coal as an energy source pay the highest power costs, Brown told the group.
Brown noted that the utility sector has had great success in reducing emissions, significantly reducing two major pollutants, nitric oxide and sulfur dioxide, from 1990 levels. “It’s a story that people really ought to be hearing,” Brown said.
The United States’ share of the world’s carbon emissions is now down to 18 percent, Brown stated, while China’s share is 26 percent. Therefore, the problem of carbon emissions worldwide cannot be solved by America, he maintained.
Brown was critical of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations which, he charged, have contributed to the closure of 300 coal-fired power units in 33 states. He urged citizens to question whether coal-fired plants may need to remain in order to meet power needs for the coldest and hottest days of the year.
Brown also questioned why no nuclear power plant has been built in the United States since 1979. Nuclear power is the least expensive energy source, he noted. Formerly the U.S. had 110 nuclear plants, and currently less than 100 nuclear plants are now operating in the country, Brown revealed.
Brown concluded with the message that local power co-ops need the support of citizens. These member-owned companies feel the impact of federal regulations more than the larger utility companies, he noted.
Brown directed members to his organization’s web site, www.energyfairness.org, for more information on these issues.
Also at the April 16 meeting, attendees heard short presentations from four candidates for local offices in the 2014 elections. These included Cecilia Jones and Danny Glidewell, Republican candidates for the Walton County Board of County Commissioners District 2 seat, Walton County School Board District 2 incumbent/candidate Faye Leddon, and Jason Catalano, a candidate for Walton County School Board District 5. School board seats are nonpartisan offices.
By DOTTY NIST