Opinion

The other energy crisis: surging electricity costs

From Glenn English, CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, which represents more than 900 cooperative electric utilities:

Gasoline at $4 per gallon is blasting a gaping hole in the family finances of North Carolinians, but more pain is on the way in the form of skyrocketing electricity rates. Officials are considering a whopping 14 percent rate increase for some regions of the state.U.S. policy makers must focus on another energy crisis: the critical link between surging electricity demand, power costs and climate change goals.

In the last five years, utility bills across the country have risen 30 percent, largely because of the cost of fuel. The price of coal – the fuel for over half of America's power plants – has doubled since last year while the cost of liquid natural gas has soared by 50 percent, it has been reported .

At the same time rates are on the rise, electricity demand is increasing. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, demand is projected to grow a total of 17 percent by 2020. And electric utilities serving the state are planning for a major increase in electricity demand by 2017 with the addition of up to 6 million households.

So what can be done?

First, the government must plan to meet our nation's growing demand for electric power and our climate change goals. They can start by expanding initiatives that boost efficiency at the consumer level such as the Energy Department's Weatherization Assistance Program.

Also, government policies should encourage the construction of new power lines so that wind power produced in rural areas can be dispatched to cities where it is most needed.

The government must spread research and development money to jump-start U.S. ingenuity. We need a way within the next 10 years to capture and permanently store carbon emissions produced by coal-fired power plants. Then we could optimize our most plentiful fuel resource without increasing greenhouse gases.

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