University of South Carolina

Energy panelists look to nationís future

The leaders of GE and Duke Energy, the state director of the Nature Conservancy and USC President Harris Pastides came together Friday (Oct. 22) to discuss the future of clean energy and jobs in the nation.

“It’s critical that we have these conversations,” said James E. Rogers, chairman, CEO and president of Duke Energy. “You brought a diverse set of people together and started talking about energy and environmental issues, the role of education, the role of research and development and the importance of tying that all together.”

The panelists agreed that the lack of a clear federal energy policy is impeding progress but said steps still must be taken.

“There is no will for a comprehensive energy plan,” said Jeffrey Immelt, chairman and CEO of General Electric. “If you don’t want to do any of this stuff (on energy policy), it means the jobs will go someplace else.

“We have to take action. We have no choice but to work on it,” he said.

Working on it means considering the mix of economics, public policy, environmental concerns and technical innovation.

What Pastides called the Four Es – energy, economics, environment and education – each play an important role in developing the next generation of clean energy and a growing economy.

Energy research and development is one of USC’s major focus areas, with 76 funded projects bringing in $30 million a year in research funding. Seven of the university’s Centers of Economic Excellence endowed chairs are devoted to energy.

Along with USC researchers, students have embraced green initiatives.

“Our students have not only embraced the green movement, they are leading it,” Pastides said. “Conservation is common sense, and it’s also powerful. When it involves students (it guarantees) it will be with us for the next generation.”

Rogers said the mission for energy providers in the 21st century is fundamentally different from the one in the previous century. Today’s charge involves modernizing power plants, changing the grid to one that serves a digital world and making our communities the most energy efficient in the world.

“We can achieve our energy goals and our environmental goals,” Rogers said. “And help our country get its mojo back.”

The good news for South Carolina, according to the Nature Conservancy’s Mark Robertson, is the existence of promising renewable energy resources, including biomass, wind and solar. But he said perhaps the most important aspect is energy efficiency. South Carolina now ranks 40th in energy efficiency of the 50 states and seventh in per-person use of electricity.

“Our energy economy has a major environmental impact,” Robertson said.

He spoke of the importance of working with state government to spur the development of new sources of energy and reduce the environmental impact from energy production.

The panelists

James E. Rogers is chairman of the board, president and chief executive officer of Duke Energy. Rogers has more than 21 years of experience as a chief executive officer in the electric-utility industry. He was named president and chief executive officer of Duke Energy following the merger of Duke Energy and Cinergy in April 2006. Before the merger, Rogers served as Cinergy’s chairman and chief executive officer for more than 11 years. Prior to the formation of Cinergy, he joined PSI Energy in 1988 as the company’s chairman, president and chief executive officer. Duke Energy, one of the largest power companies in the United States, supplies and delivers electricity to approximately 4 million customers in the Carolinas and the Midwest. The company, headquartered in Charlotte, also distributes natural gas in Ohio and Kentucky. Its commercial power and international businesses operate diverse power generation assets in North America and Latin America, including a growing renewable energy portfolio.

Jeffrey Immelt is the ninth chairman of GE, a post he has held since Sept. 7, 2001. Immelt has held several global leadership positions since coming to GE in 1982, including roles in GE's plastics, appliance and medical businesses. In 1989, he became an officer of GE and joined the GE Capital Board in 1997. In 2000, Immelt was appointed president and chief executive officer. Immelt has been named one of the "World's Best CEOs" three times by Barron's, and since he began serving as chief executive officer, GE has been named "America's Most Admired Company" in a poll conducted by Fortune magazine and one of "The World's Most Respected Companies" in polls by Barron's and the Financial Times. Immelt is also a member of The Business Council and is on the board of the New York Federal Reserve Bank.

Mark L. Robertson has served as executive director of the Nature Conservancy of South Carolina since 1999. He directs a multi-disciplinary staff in five locations around the state. Since 1969, the Conservancy has helped to protect more than 333,000 acres in South Carolina, from the Southern Blue Ridge Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean beaches. In addition to land protection, the South Carolina chapter implements conservation actions in prescribed fire, aquatic and marine ecology, land management and has led statewide efforts to create new financial incentives and funding sources in state government for conservation. Robertson has worked for the Nature Conservancy since 1985, working previously at the Virginia Coast Reserve and the Florida Keys office.

Dr. Harris Pastides became president of the University of South Carolina in 2008 after a decade of service as a USC professor, dean and vice president. Under Pastides' leadership as vice president for research and health sciences, research funding and sponsored programs at South Carolina increased 89 percent since 2002. Pastides continues to take a leading role in the development of Innovista, the university’s research innovation district. As president, Pastides has launched Focus Carolina, the most comprehensive strategic planning initiative in the university's history. Among the major goals Pastides has identified for the university’s long-term future: sustainability; innovation; the university’s role in the development of a knowledge economy; more access to education for South Carolinians; and stronger cohesion among the university’s eight campuses.

By Office of Media Relations

Posted: 10/22/10 @ 7:15 PM | Updated: 10/27/10 @ 6:39 PM | Permalink