UNIVARSITY.ORG | Energy Transition for University of North Carolina
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23 Sep Energy Transition for University of North Carolina

“Chancellor Holden Thorp today (May 4) announced that the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will end its use of coal in the next decade.”

“Universities must lead the transition away from fossil fuels to clean energy,” Thorp said. “Today, Carolina takes another big step in that direction.” The chancellor spoke from the green rooftop of the Rams Head Plaza, within sight of the solar panel array on the Morrison Residence Hall roof.”

All this from uncnews.unc.edu

This is all pretty exciting for people educated enough to realize that we are all going to have to make other plans other than the ones which we have been following for so many years.

Making other plans is what we will have to do as the energy transition comes closer to reality. Very soon now, the ones who don’t will be the ones with no energy for fuel nor warmth. Sorry. Just the way it is.

Some people have implied (a number of students even think this) that the transition to a coal-free campus is a done deal. Not quite, actually. I have read that biomass test firings have begun, but the university’s cogeneration plant is going to burn mostly coal for at least the next five to ten years.

The University has a Energy Task Force and they did a superior job of making recommendations outlining an aggressive plan for a coal-free campus. The University Energy Services Department responded quickly and did a pretty effective job in trying to carry out the program as their part in the energy transition.

But it’s not a done deal and a lot of opportunities lay in the future. The transition requires the University to delve into the problems with sourcing, not to mention the sustainable management and emissions monitoring. Living thoroughly in the real world, they are responsible for considering the quite substantial, not to mention costly, adaptations in their infrastructure. These are necessary adaptations and they must be approached as real problems requiring solutions within monetary budgets.

So, for the immediate future, the University will continue to burn coal. The University, to its credit, made a commitment to buy coal from deep mines. However, despite this commitment with the best of intentions, the University’s recently renewed coal contracts indicate that the source is from contour mining operations. Contour mining is a highly ruinous form of surface mining. It’s not mountaintop mining, but closely destructive. Also, it has been revealed that about seventy percent of its electricity is still coming from Duke Energy. Duke has no plans to switch from coal to anything else less harmful.

So although the University has plans to become coal-free, it is not a immediate solution.

I certainly commend anyone who comes out with a plan to begin the process of energy transition. Especially before it is simply too late to act, like most organizations and people are going to do. But this story emphasizes that the work needs an economic commitment as well as a moral one. Neither commercial power generation nor residential power generation will come peacefully.

The energy transition is coming and it will not be pretty. If you don’t make plans real soon, your family will be just one of the many who go without. No way to say that nicely. You will simply go without.

Don’t believe it? Fine.

Hide and watch.



J Cosmos

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