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Posted:
11/15/2006






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News

Mast Store launches Green Power Plan

By Scott Nicholson

nicholson@wataugademocrat.com

The Mast General Store became the first regional business to step forward as a significant investor in “green power.”

The Mast General Store chain committed to purchasing 3.6 million kilowatt-hours per year from renewable energy sources in the state, money that will be used to help launch more alternative energy providers. NCGreenPower is the non-profit entity developed to expand the use of renewable energy in the state with the goal of eventually shifting the burden of power generation toward non-polluting resources.

Martha Gettys, corporate development manager for NCGreenPower, joined BREMCO in recognizing the Mast Store at a ceremony Monday.

Gettys described the program as voluntary and said while a number of residential customers were supporting green power initiatives, only about two dozen businesses had signed on so far. Mast Store’s commitment was important not only because of the number of credits purchased, but because of the example it will set for other businesses.

The NCGreenPower program was formed several years ago with the support of the N.C. Utilities Commission and given the task of adding more renewable energy sources to the “power grid,” augmenting traditional sources of coal-fired and nuclear power plants. Currently, photovoltaic and small hydro-electric systems are connected to the grid and provide power to businesses and residences. Gettys said wind energy will soon be added to the mix, and eventually some methane collection projects will be generating energy for off-site use.

Gettys said the significance of the Mast Store commitment is measured not just in the amount, but in the store chain’s cultural and historic significance in the region. BREMCO and Gettys gave appreciation awards to Mast General Store vice-presidents Fred and Lisa Martin.

Brian Crutchfield, BREMCO’s director of economic development, said a number of residences were purchasing “green power,” but Mast Store “pushed us over the top and made us the largest cooperative in how much green power we contribute.”

He characterized the purchase of green power credits as the equivalent of investing in renewable energy start-ups, since the generated electricity is added to the statewide grid instead of going directly to those who pay for the service.

The money, essentially an extra cost added onto the electric bill, is more of a long-term investment toward the day when renewable energy sources may provide the bulk, or perhaps even the entirety, of the state’s electricity.

Gettys said the purchase of 100 kwh would eliminate the equivalent of 3,000 miles driven in a gasoline-combustion vehicle or the air-freshening equivalent of planting nearly 300 trees.

“It’s voluntary, and the goal now is to build up suppliers,” Gettys said. “More and more people are ready to become producers of renewable energy.”

The first wind farm is set to go into operation in Clyde, and Gettys said securing the commitment of more businesses is the next focus of the program. She said power companies, though still concerned about economy and providing low-cost price despite environmental issues, are partners in developing renewable energy and understand it will become increasingly important in the future.

Fred Martin said Mast General Store has always been interested in preservation, using native and recycled materials in its store construction and renovations.

“The feeling is, as a group, to take small steps in the right direction,” he said. “We’d love to see other businesses in this initiative. We hope we can contribute to education about green power as well.”

Linda Martin added, “It’s also about doing the right thing and being responsible for the communities we are supported by.”

The company thrives on its successful business model of incorporating all employees as partners, and favors the phrase “family of stores” rather than a chain. The original Mast Store in Valle Crucis was established in 1883, offering a broad range of goods to the rural community.

Other stores can be found in Boone, Waynesville,Hendersonville and Asheville, as well as two out-of-state locations.

The original store was placed on the national Register of Historic Places in the 1970s, and the chain actively promotes and supports conservation and education activities. Fred Martin noted that the store originally was “powered” by a renewable resource, as fire wood provided heat for the building in the days before electricity.

According to BREMCO, the 3.6 million kwh will offset the equivalent of 750,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions and equivalent to planting 57,000 trees.

Residential users are also invited to join the program, and Crutchfield noted Harvard Ayers was one of the first residential users to not only generate a significant portion of his home-energy use, but to sell excess power back to BREMCO to be distributed across the power grid. More information is available at www.ncgreenpower.com.



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