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UNC system President Tom Ross and Rocky Mountain Institute founder Amory Lovins field questions at an Appalachian Energy Summit event at the Holmes Center on Wednesday. Photo by Anna Oakes

Originally published: 2013-07-18 19:29:23
Last modified: 2013-07-18 19:33:55

Energy Summit under way

by Anna Oakes

Nearly 300 people interested in an environmentally responsible and sustainable university system are in Boone this week for the second annual Appalachian Energy Summit.

The multiday conference, hosted by Appalachian State University, is being held to review successes and develop and enhance strategies as the University of North Carolina system works to reduce energy consumption and achieve carbon neutrality by the year 2050.

Participating are representatives from all 17 UNC campuses as well as the private institutions of Duke University, Wake Forest, Davidson, Warren Wilson, Catawba and Elon. The UNC system is working to reduce energy costs by $1 billion during the next two decades.

"This is really about what kind of world we're going to have," said UNC system President Tom Ross on Wednesday. "We have o face these challenges, and we have to do it now."

Ross said that conservation and efficiency measures saved the system $67 million in avoided energy costs in the most recent reporting year, as well as an additional $13 million in water costs. Since 2003, the system has cut energy usage by more than 20 percent and water usage by more than 40 percent, he said.

"But we can and we must do more," Ross added. "We've got to get faster and better if we're going to reach this goal."

Following Ross' remarks was a keynote address by Amory Lovin, director of the Rocky Mountain Institute. Lovins advises governments and major firms worldwide on advanced energy and resource efficiency, and the institute is once again assisting with facilitation of the summit.

Lovins said the UNC system is on the right track, but that many opportunities remain.

"The efficient technologies keep improving faster than we can install them," he said. "I think we're headed to negative costs."

He said the solutions to the world's energy and sustainability needs require integration, collaboration, mindfulness and a "bigger picture" mentality.

Lovins urged students to engage in experiential and interdisciplinary learning and to resist the binds of traditional disciplinary approaches that end up discouraging creativity.

He peppered his address with real-world examples of innovative technologies, including light-colored pavement that stays cooler and reflects light for security, electric car charger sockets in light poles, solar panel awnings over parking areas, pervious pavements and more.

Anthony Cortese, senior fellow at Second Nature, spoke to summit attendees on Thursday about the role of higher education in leading the way to a sustainable society. Sustainability should be part of the core mission of every college institution, he said.

"We have to stop thinking about sustainability as an add-on," he said.

He said that more than 600 institutions, including ASU and other N.C. universities, have joined the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment, a pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and establish action plans to become carbon neutral. He called this the "first time since World War II that higher education has stepped up on a major social issue."

A panel of students from various UNC campuses relayed their experiences working to achieve energy efficiency and sustainability and shared advice with summit attendees. Breakout sessions scheduled Thursday and today were designed to target specific topics and questions raised at the summit's midyear meeting held in March.

The summit is scheduled to conclude today with additional speakers, an industry panel and a closing ceremony, including a visit from Gov. Pat McCrory.

For more information, visit

2013 Campus Successes

To open the 2013 Appalachian Energy Summit, Terrance Feravich, University of North Carolina system associate vice president for finance and chief sustainability officer, reviewed campus successes achieved since the inaugural Appalachian Energy Summit in July 2012.

Feravich said that when summit organizers asked campuses for examples of energy usage reduction and sustainability measures, the request yielded about 100 responses. This year, the list of successes doubled, he said.

"Perhaps you're just more confident that you actually have successes, but the bottom line is, I believe that there have been more successes partly because of this event," Feravich said.

To view a slideshow of campus successes, visit

Following are a few of the campus successes highlighted at the summit:

- Appalachian State University installed a computer program in the student union that interfaces between the event reservations and HVAC system so that the HVAC system will shut down in spaces that are not in use and power up as needed. The program saves 50 percent on heating and cooling costs.

- East Carolina University created a boiler blow down heat exchanger. Periodically boilers are required to be "blown down" with hot water to reduce impurities. The hot water must be discarded, but previously nothing was done with that energy. The exchanger recaptures the heat from the water and steam to preheat the water that is put back into the boilers. The installation saves 4,200 million BTU in energy annually.

- A submetering system at N.C. Central University measures electrical, steam, gas and water consumption.

- N.C. State opened a new combined heat and power utility plan that saves $4 million annually.

- UNC-Chapel Hill's Morrison Residence Hall won the EPA's first national building competition by investing less than $30,000 to avoid more than $200,000 in energy costs and reduce energy consumption by 36 percent.