by Dan Cannon
Blog written by: Kate Mueller: Kate is a Freshman at North Carolina State University majoring in civil engineering with an environmental concentration. Kate is part of a group running a campaign at NC State University, the campaign is raising awareness around Duke Energy's dirty energy and the need for the UNC System to transition to 100% clean renewable energy.
Like most everyone else here on campus, my average day consists of classes, some form of exercise, a few meals, maybe a meeting or two, homework, and (eventually) sleep. I can’t say that speaking with our Chancellor, Randy Woodson, and the UNC System President, Tom Ross, usually falls into my routine, nor would I expect it to. However, yesterday evening, Caroline Hansley, Jaclyn Mills and I (all part of our Fossil Free core leadership team) had the opportunity to briefly speak with both of them. I suppose that may seem rather nonchalant, but let me assure you it was freaking fantastic.
In all honesty, I thought we had the intention of attending our Student Government Senate meeting to hear about the proposed change in drop dates for schools in the UNC System. Needless to say, I was surprised when I discovered the plan was to wait for Chancellor Woodson and President Ross to arrive at the meeting, and then ask to set up a time to discuss renewable energy for the UNC System. But sure enough, moments before the 7:30 meeting start time, the two of them appeared down the hallway and it was time to step into action.
Here’s what went down and what you need to know:
Jaclyn introduced herself to President Ross and explained that she was representing, NCSEN, a network of students, both on our campus and state, interested in pursuing renewable energy in the state and on campuses of North Carolina. In return, he had questions about what kinds of energy we were pursuing, listing solar, wind, and geothermal, as well as what the North Carolina energy portfolio plans are.
In 2007, North Carolina passed the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (REPS), requiring utilities in North Carolina to supply 12.5% of there energy from renewable sources by the year 2021. North Carolina is the first state in the southeast to adopt such an energy mandate. Despite this policy, Duke Energy has publicly stated that it only plans on bringing on 3% of its energy from renewable sources in North Carolina by the year 2030. To make matters worse, the American Legislative Exchange Commission (ALEC) is currently focusing efforts on repealing laws and policies calling for more clean, renewable energy. (You can read more about ALEC’s plans and about Duke Energy's involvement with ALEC here.)
The fact of the matter is, while legislation plays a role in making Fossil Free a reality, our motivations come from the fact the UNC System is practically owned by Duke Energy. Annually, around $200 million is spent on energy by the UNC System, making us the largest energy customer in the state because of the energy monopoly Duke holds, the system has nowhere else to turn and no other choices when it comes to power. For example, NC State has a Strategic Energy Plan involving climate neutrality by 2050, and if Duke Energy is supplying minimal renewable options, we have no means of meeting this goal. In essence, we’re paying for dirty energy with no way out.
While Jaclyn was speaking with President Ross, Caroline and I talked with Chancellor Woodson about the recently passed Sustainability Fund. He was a strong supporter of the Fund, attributing much of its success to the fact it was a student lead initiative. In Jaclyn's discussion with Ross, Jaclyn said President Ross mentioned he loves meeting with students and they decided they will work to set a meeting date in the near future- score one for student initiatives and fossil free energy!
Obviously this brief meeting was encouraging and crucial to the process of getting this campaign moving, but it was also an opportunity to give it personality and depth. One moment we were sitting in a conference room role playing to practice public speaking, and the next we were getting a business card from the UNC-System President!
It’s also a testament to how progress is a living, breathing entity. By putting ourselves out there and trying something new, we are able to work toward the change we wish to see. I know Jaclyn was nervous about speaking with President Ross and representing students statewide while doing so, but she stepped up beautifully. At the same time, I’m still working on getting comfortable presenting background on myself and our campaign to groups of people, but it’s a work in progress.