Summit crafts UNC energy strategy
by Anna Oakes
Hosted by Appalachian State University, the four-day summit includes representatives from the 17-campus University of North Carolina system as well as five private colleges. The summit's mission is to develop a sustainable energy strategy for the state's higher education institutions.
The UNC system spends $226 million a year, or approximately $1,000 per student, on energy — costs that are expected to increase as energy prices and demand rise, according to the North Carolina State Energy Office. At current levels, a systemwide 25 percent reduction in energy use would yield a 20-year savings of more than $1 billion for the state.
Participants in sessions held at ASU's Valborg Theatre Tuesday morning heard from University of North Carolina system Chief Sustainability Officer Terrance Feravich about the history of steps the UNC system has taken to become more sustainable, followed by ASU Sustainability Director Ged Moody, who outlined the goals and desired outcomes of the summit.
A panel of speakers from academia, industry and the military then addressed the summit audience.
Bill Chameides, dean of the Nicolas School of the Environment at Duke University, said universities have a responsibility to push the envelope and forge the path in sustainability.
In construction and renovation of campus buildings, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is no longer enough, said Chameides; “now it's about net-zero buildings.”
Universities must also take control of their supply chains, he said, creating a greater impact by scrutinizing the products brought onto campuses.
Chameides mentioned a New York Times article that found that a quarter of LEED-certified buildings were not performing up to standards. That's not because of technology, he said; rather, “it's a function of human beings not acting rationally.”
The challenge then becomes to change human behaviors, he added.
Peter Foss, a senior executive with General Electric, said, “People who said there's a tradeoff between economics and the environment … it's just not true.”
Foss discussed GE's ecomagination initiative, which it calls a “commitment to imagine and build innovative solutions to today's environmental challenges while driving economic growth.”
Foss said the company has is on track to invest $20 billion in the initiative by 2015.
“We've added more than 22 products and solutions that generate more than $20 billion in revenues,” he said. The company, evaluated by an independent agency, has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 29 percent and reduced water use by almost 14 percent and operating expenses by $130 million, he said.
“A cleaner world is real important. But other benefits are really meaningful,” Foss said. “Combine all these, and you have a real arsenal for another industrial revolution.”
Rear Admiral Chris Mossey said reducing petroleum usage is a major priority for the U.S. Navy, which consumes about 80,000 barrels of oil daily and spends $4 billion annually on energy. He said the major challenge for universities, as has been the case with the Navy, would be changing the culture of energy use.
“I think that understanding how you use energy is really the difference maker for us,” he said.
Amory Lovins, founder of summit facilitator Rocky Mountain Institute and a world leader in energy issues, gave a keynote address called “Imagine a University.” Lovins detailed numerous examples of successful energy reduction projects and initiatives at campuses across the nation.
Summit participants spent Tuesday afternoon in seven breakout groups: Leadership; Financial and Regulatory Considerations; Academic Integration; Building Efficiency; Transportation; Energy: Operations, Management and Supply; and Energy: Planning and Systems Integration.
The work groups were tasked with identifying best practices, state-of-the-art solutions, opportunities for greater efficiency, barriers to success, capable business partners and peers and making specific recommendations to UNC General Administration and individual campuses.
Additional plenary sessions and breakout work sessions will take place Wednesday.
For more information about the Appalachian Energy Summit, visit http://sustain.appstate.edu/participants-2012-energysummit.