The UNC system has taken numerous strides toward addressing a state mandate to reduce energy consumption 30 percent by 2015, but greater cultural change is needed, university officials said during presentations at the Appalachian Energy Summita> held July 9-11 at Appalachian State University.
The event drew more than 250 participants. It included keynote addresses by sustainable energy expert Amory Lovins, chief scientist of the Rocky Mountain Institute.
"The UNC system continues to be good stewards of the environment given these difficult economic times, but we must seek ways to improve. We are the single largest user of electricity and water in state government and we have a responsibility to lead," said Terrance Feravich, associate vice president for finance and university property officer and newly named chief sustainability officer for the UNC system.
"We have all become very comfortable with the way we do things over the years," said Jack Colby, assistant vice chancellor for facilities operations at N.C. State University. "We are now talking about a paradigm change in terms of the way we operate our campuses and create an example for others in our state. It is our thoughts and our imagination that are going to make a difference."
For example, Colby and summit participants said if campuses are going to achieve the energy reduction goal, they must:
Administrators, faculty, staff and students from the 17 University of North Carolina System campuses as well as five private universities in the state attended the summit, the first of its kind in the state.
UNC campuses spend roughly $227 million on energy each year. Energy summit participants will use information learned about best practices from other university participants to develop plans over the coming year to save energy and operate in a more sustainable manner.
Participants broke into working groups to discuss seven areas of possible cultural change: leadership, financial and regulatory considerations, academic integration, building efficiency, transportation, energy generation and distribution efficiency, and technology systems integration and management.
"We did not think we could create a playbook in two days and say here is what we are going to do," said Ged Moody, university sustainability director at Appalachian. "The Appalachian Energy Summit was about building a common understanding of the problem, of the technologies, types of solutions, types of business partners and the types of leadership mechanisms that are necessary to solve it. It will be up to each campus to create action steps."
Summit participants will reconvene next summer to review the progress made toward reducing energy use on their campuses.
"I hope that each campus will have implemented five to 10 initiatives, will have documentable energy savings, will have engaged their student community, and I hope at the system level we will have created relationships and collaborations that did not exist before," Moody said.
Energy saving successes that have already occurred at some of the university campuses include:
Walter Putman, a recent graduate of Appalachian's sustainable development program who now is a renewable energy consultant with CALOR Energy in Charlotte, said students in Boone are eager to help the university reach its energy and sustainability goals. "We have a culture that supports renewable energy," he said. "In 2004 and again in 2007, students at Appalachian approved a $5 a semester fee that finances renewable energy projects on campus. When you talk about driving a culture change, we don't have to do that. We have that culture in every college on campus."
"We know that when we work together we can do anything," Appalachian's chancellor Dr. Kenneth E. Peacock told summit participants. "We have a great task ahead of us. While our campuses usually compete (with one another) in lots of ways, this is the time that we cooperate, collaborate and work together and we will make a difference for our world and all that's here."
“The Appalachian Energy Summit was about building a common understanding of the problem, of the technologies, types of solutions, types of business partners and the types of leadership mechanisms necessary to solve it.”
- Ged Moody, Appalachian's director of sustainability
Dr. Jamie Russell: I was excited to attend. I was actually asked by Jeff Ramsdell, one of the organizers, to be one of the program leaders for building efficiency. I was honored to be asked to do that and am excited to be here. Looking at some of the speakers, especially the Rear Admiral, have shown for all operations how much energy intensity there is. The Navy, of course, has mission critical items—they have to have their power. A university, in some sense, is not as mission critical, but we are educating the future. So, we're mission critical and we have to have energy. We use a lot of it, so the big question is what can we do to reduce and how can we do that effectively in a tough economic climate while being environmentally responsible while we do it. I'm really hoping to get some ideas from other campuses, from other people who have been going down the path, and I look forward to working with them to develop some initiatives that can be ongoing.
Robert Hastings: College campuses, whether they like it or not, are role models and so they have the opportunity to teach their students, but also outreach to the community. If you can accomplish something and demonstrate its value and efficacy on a college campus, then you can export it to the community at large.
Victoria Petermann: I attended the Appalachian State summit because I think that our environment is the most important thing that we have. I personally think that the biggest challenge that UNC faces as a university is getting our students really involved in changing our living behavior to accommodate for new technologies and new ways of living sustainably.