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University of North Carolina System Explores Renewable Energy

August 5, 2014 By Karen Henry

appalachian state univ-energy-manageUniversity of North Carolina (UNC) system leaders are exploring the feasibility of taking on a large-scale renewable energy project, the Watauga Democrat reports.

Such a project would help the university system meet its goal of reducing energy costs by $1 billion in 20 years and achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.

Last year, the UNC board of governors approved lighting and other energy-saving efforts to avoid $25 million in energy costs through a system-wide guaranteed energy savings contract involving 13 UNC campuses, the UNC General Administration and several affiliated organizations.

While UNC system leaders said there are still more energy-saving projects that can be undertaken, they added that a larger renewable-energy strategy is needed to reach its goal.

To begin developing a renewable-energy strategy for the 17-campus system, several representatives from the UNC system traveled to the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) in Colorado earlier this year and participated in the eLab Accelerator, a bootcamp for electricity innovation. The group will continue discussing the effort with the Appalachian Energy Summit’s Finance, Regulator and Energy Generation work group.

Taking on a large-scale renewable energy project is not without its obstacles. The plan would require funding from external sources, including seed capital for startup costs, according to the Watauga Democrat article. Third-party sales of electricity are not currently legal in the state of North Carolina, so the UNC system would not be able to contract with firms that want to put renewable energy on its campuses. Power produced by a renewable energy facility must be consumed by the facility owner or sold back to the grid by the utility.

UNC system President Tom Ross is calling for reform of North Carolina’s laws.

Photograph via Shutterstock.

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