Under the Dome

Smithfield Foods executive lobbying to keep status quo on renewables

A top executive at Smithfield Foods, the nation’s largest pork producer and processor, said Tuesday he has met with lawmakers to express concern about a possible rollback in the state’s renewable energy program.

Some lawmakers want to freeze requirements that utilities get increasing amounts of their energy from the sun, wind and other “renewable” sources – which includes the possibility of hog manure.

“Manure to energy” is part of the future for Smithfield, which employs about 10,000 workers in North Carolina, said Dennis Treacy, chief sustainability officer at Smithfield. He was formerly the cabinet-level environmental chief in Virginia.

Treacy said in a meeting at The News & Observer that he hopes any changes do not set back efforts to grow capacity for alternative sources of energy.

He provided a document that says Smithfield is “very close to finalizing several significant renewable energy project agreements” in North Carolina.

“We certainly hope that renewable energy policy in the state will continue to encourage these types of projects,” the document says. “They are exciting, and they seem to meet the economic thresholds of the technology suppliers and investors... We hope to make some significant announcements in this area in the near future.”

Proponents of changing the state’s policy want to freeze how much utilities must get from renewable energy, saying current mandates that set an ultimate green goal of 12.5 percent of utility sales by 2021 are unfair and deny consumers the cheapest source of electricity.