Just a few weeks ago, most of the UNC Energy Management office went to the Appalachian Energy Summit on the campus of Appalachian State University in Boone, NC. Over the course of the three day conference, representatives from UNC system schools, private schools in North Carolina, schools outside of the state, and businesses in the energy industry met to share best practices and technologies to help their institution save money and energy. Also, attendees heard from leaders in the environmental and energy movements including Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Amory Lovins, and David Orr.
The summit was broken into working groups based on their field in order to better facilitate meaningful discussions. There was a group for officials in charge of transportation, one for campus energy managers, and even a group for incorporating sustainability into education. I joined the Student Leadership group which focused on the many job opportunities available to students in the energy industry.
The other students and I heard from the Futuristic Optimist, Francis Koster, who warned us about the dangers of Methane, a greenhouse gas he claimed was much worse than carbon dioxide. Then, we listened to and had a question and answer session with current workers in the energy industry from various consulting firms and a local lighting company. They reassured us that the energy industry is growing rapidly and that we can take whatever path we wish to find our niche and engage our interests.
My biggest takeaway from the Summit is that since 2003, UNC system schools have saved over $900 million in energy costs. This is a testament to the importance of the energy efficiency projects that the various campuses have put into place over the past 12 years.
Before next year’s summit, participants will meet again at the midyear summit at UNC-Pembroke in February to update each other on their progress throughout the year as well as to survey UNCP’s work towards energy efficiency.