UNC system leaders commit to cutting energy use
by Anna Oakes
Chancellors and presidents, as well as the UNC system president, signed signatory documents pledging to actively participate in the Energy Summit Initiative; submit datasets related to energy usage, expenditures and planning; develop campus-based energy management programs; develop campus-based and state-level energy reduction goals for the year 2020; and identify and develop the regulatory and financial mechanisms necessary to meet energy savings goals.
All of these institutions, public and private, we compete in lots of ways, Appalachian State University Chancellor Ken Peacock said at the summit's end on Wednesday. This is when we collaborate.
ASU hosted the four-day summit that drew 250 representatives from the 17-campus University of North Carolina system and five private colleges.
The ongoing effort, called the Energy Summit Initiative, is to develop a sustainable energy strategy for the state's higher education institutions.
At current usage levels, summit organizers repeatedly stated, a UNC systemwide 25 percent reduction in energy use would yield a 20-year savings of more than $1 billion for the state.
The UNC system aims to achieve climate neutrality by 2050.
The culture change and the major paradigm change is not going to come quickly, said Jack Colby, assistant vice chancellor for facilities operations at N.C. State University. Everything we do needs to be designed for the long-term success.
On Wednesday, following talks by world-renowned energy expert Amory Lovins and other influential speakers, summit participants split up into seven breakout groups to brainstorm, identify opportunities and develop goals.
Each group designated a leader and a secretary, and the groups will continue to meet during the next year to further develop specific initiatives and action plans.
The summit will reconvene at ASU in summer 2013. A website has been established to track the group's progress: sustain.appstate.edu/participants-2012-energysummit.
Following are abbreviated summaries of the themes and goals developed in each breakout group.
The Leadership group determined that university administrators should pursue financial mechanisms to enable the self-funding of energy projects; leverage the collective power and prestige of the UNC system to aid with General Administration and legislative issues; place energy-related issues on the agendas of chancellor, provost and chief financial officer meetings at the system level; and connect with relevant regional industry clusters to enhance partnerships and skill levels.
We need chancellors and provosts to signal that this is an important initiative. Before anything else happens, we have to have that first, said ASU Provost Lori Gonzalez.
Finance and Regulatory
Participants in this group developed numerous goals, such as: partner with the state to develop financing models for energy efficiency and renewable energy; advocate for third party models for power purchase agreements with entities other than investor-owned utilities; create funding models for individual energy reduction reward programs; and research and expand student fee-funded clean energy programs.
Six major goals included: implement campus energy policies; develop formatted contract documents for power purchase agreements; assess potential sites for renewable energy installations; install a large-scale renewable project to service the entire system, secure supply and stabilize demand; develop installation plans for automation and metering systems for buildings; and develop relevant energy consumption metrics by building type to be used for benchmarking.
This group's goals include: conduct strategic planning session with all campus energy stakeholders; partner with campus community to enhance education and create initiatives; extend campus outreach and education to all campus communities; launch UNC system student competition; identify possible campus-specific student projects; help students talk to each other across campuses; collect best practices and make accessible to the campus community and beyond; identify feasibility for campuses to work together and negotiate with utilities; and recognize and supplement existing resources, expertise and staffing systemwide.
Goals of the Building Efficiency group include: implement aggressive plan for energy metering, measuring and tracking; optimize space utilization and centralized scheduling; install building controls and automation systems; maintain adequate staff and develop a comprehensive staff training program; and inspire a culture of sustainable behavior.
Multiple initiatives were proposed by the Transportation group, such as: create a multi-campus, centralized database of transportation usage data (carpooling, single vehicle, bus, bike); publicize alternative transportation options and technologies amongst students, staff and faculty; coordinate transit and land use planning across municipalities and campuses; install solar collectors over parking lots; reward students and faculty for not using a car on campus; and develop a currency-like rewards or credit system to reward efficient use across energy programs.
Finally, the Academic Integration group developed these goals: engage communities on campus and beyond and initiate more applied research partnerships; frame the campus as a microcosm, demonstrating sustainable living; form interdisciplinary and cross-campus collaboratives to address problems and solutions related to energy via joint funding opportunities; collaborate system-wide to document and promote education regarding energy and sustainability; enable professional development for faculty to incorporate energy and sustainability concepts with pedagogical methods in diverse fields; focus on energy and sustainability within each discipline.
UPDATE: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that 19 of the 22 participating universities in the Appalachian Energy Summit signed the signatory document. Eighteen universities signed the document in addition to UNC system President Tom Ross.