Efficiency Aids Bridge-Building Between Industry, Environment
The State Journal
6 February 2013
By Taylor Kuykendall, Reporter
Energy efficiency improvement — the idea that the full use of
energy with as little wasted as possible — is bridging the divide
between groups that often find themselves in opposition.
On the first day of the The Building Conference in Morgantown last
week, an environmentalist, a coal mining executive and a power
generation executive all shared a stage. Speaking largely to those
in the construction business, all shared the common desire for
"Basically everybody should be concerned about wasting energy,"
said Larry Harris, Appalachian Stewardship Foundation chairman.
Harris said that people are standing up for more action on
sustainability and the environment in West Virginia. He said his
organization tries to inform people about water, air and other
issues with the environment associated with energy extraction and
"I know we have a global economy now, but we also should be doing
the best we can to conserve our resources for future generations,"
Harris said. "It's important for everyone to conserve, it's a hard
Jim Laurita, the president and CEO of coal-mining company MEPCO,
said he chose to speak at the event to begin "building bridges for
people that tend to be polarized. He said everyone at the
Morgantown-based conference was meeting to discuss common goals of
working toward a sustainable future.
"Why would someone in the industry business want to sponsor an
event like this? I'm born and raised here, live here, got about
800 employees, care for West Virginia and the future," Laurita
said. "I've spent the last 20 years trying to make this area
Laurita said that part of what he comes up against is those that
think renewables can overtake fossil fuels. He said the need for
baseload power, at least for now, necessitates the need for coal,
natural gas or nuclear power.
"At first blush it looks like it hurts us, but to have a
sustainable environment here, and not just the natural
environment, but our communities, we have to understand the future
and what our citizens want," Laurita said. "Waiting until things
happen is not the way I typically work."
Jim Fawcett, manager of Energy Efficiency & Consumer Programs
with Appalachian Power Co., said that as a generator of power,
Appalachian Power wants consumers to be able to control electrical
"We have a good bit of generation right now, and it's cost
effective and profitable to run it," Fawcett said. "As we continue
to maintain our business, there's a lot of investments we have to
make in the transmission grid as we're closing in on some of our
plants that don't meet efficiency standards. There's a limited
amount of capital, so if there's ways we can maintain or lower the
growth rate of electric usage, then it puts off the investment we
have to make in additionally power plants to meet that load."
To a certain degree, Fawcett said, efficiency is much cheaper for
the power company than building a new power plant. Cooperative
customers and early adopters of efficiency technology are easy to
fold into the program with little or no incentive.
Those not interested in energy efficiency, Fawcett said, can be
expensive to attract into efficiency programs.
"There are ways people can essentially have a more comfortable
home and business and still save money," Fawcett said, adding that
the energy efficiency programs are generally means of improving
quality of life.
Rebecca Kimmons, the communications director for The Building
Conference, said that event was "eye-opening" for many in
attendance because of the passionate viewpoints of the parties
"We tried to create an event here that is a no-hype zone," she
said, expressing that civil discussion was needed to avoid being
dragged into camps of polar opinion. "…We need that in West
Virginia, we need a lot more of it."
A similar conference, Kimmons said, will be held next year.