From July 17th – 19th Appalachian State University hosted the second annual three day Energy Summit where students, faculty, and administrators came together to unite their knowledge and creative ideas to secure the University of North Carolina System’s (UNC) energy future in North Carolina. The conferences are a major step in helping to coordinate and achieve The UNC System’s ultimate goal of carbon neutrality by 2050 as well as saving $1 billion in energy savings over next 20 years.
This year I was fortunate to be chosen as one of five students on a student panel, where I presented the work Fossil Free NC State and the North Carolina Student Energy Network (NCSEN) have done. I had a chance to raise awareness around Duke Energy’s dirty energy habits and the importance of shifting the UNC System towards 100% clean renewable energy.
NCSEN has spent the last year pressuring our administrators across the state of North Carolina through petitions, media hits, administrative meetings and student government resolutions. Our grassroots organizing efforts focus on moving Duke Energy away from fossil fuels, and asking the UNC system, one of Duke Energy’s largest customers in the state, to leverage their purchasing power and demand more renewable energy from Duke Energy.
At the Appalachian Energy Summit I quickly exposed the elephant in the room that no one was acknowledging: the UNC system cannot achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 while still attached to Duke’s dirty energy grid.
UNC System’s sustainability goals, passing of green fees, and energy efficiency efforts are extremely commendable, but Duke Energy’s monopoly in North Carolina and 19th century business model is a big hindrance. I felt confident about expressing my disapproval of Duke’s 20 year integrated resource plan that calls for less than three percent total renewable energy, as well as Duke’s efforts to raise rates to only build more dirty coal and risky natural gas power plants. To top it off, I mentioned my concern for my hometown that has to deal with Duke Energy’s blatant disrespect for my community’s water supply they’ve been poisoning with coal ash ponds.
I suggested that the UNC system should look into partnering with the IT sector, companies like Apple, Google, and Facebook, who, driven by customer demand, have made clean energy and combating climate change top priorities within their business models. I also took the speech as an opportunity to publicly suggest we follow the IT sector’s lead, and leverage our purchasing power of our $200 million utility bill each year and “customer” demand from students to push Duke Energy into providing the UNC system with more renewable energy.
After my presentation I was approached by more than 40 of the 300 people I presented too, thanking me for my courage and encouraging me onward and upward. I look forward to the UNC System administrators engaging Duke Energy officials in the upcoming fall semester by bringing students and the new CEO Lynn Good to the table to talk about real solutions.
AT NCSEN this fall we plan to step up our organizing efforts: we are going to focus on building grassroots support to encourage these steps to happen faster as well as engaging our Board of Governors.
Written by: Caroline Hansley, Caroline is a Campus Coordinator with Greenpeace, she served as the student chair of the 2012-2013 Greenpeace Student Network Board, she is also an alumnus of the Greenpeace Semester and a Udall Scholar. Caroline is a senior at North Carolina State University studying Interdisciplinary Studies.