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It's being called one of the most important meetings that will take place in the state of North Carolina this year.
The Appalachian Energy Summit, which started Monday morning, will bring together representatives from every school in the UNC system in an effort to find ways to save money spent on energy. With 221,000 students on 17 campuses, the UNC system is the largest user of electricity in North Carolina, but many believe that millions of dollars can be saved.
"If we're able to reduce the energy spend by a billion dollars over the next 20 years that is money that's available for other needs that our state has," said ASU Sustainability Director Dr. Ged Moody.
The summit will take place in Boone on the campus of Appalachian State University until Wednesday.
Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute will facilitate the summit. Lovins is well known worldwide as a physicist and science and environmental writer. He was named one of Time Magazines "100 Most Influential People" in 2009.
His books include Reinventing Fire and Winning the Oil Endgame.
"Bringing them into this initiative brings incredible depth to the technical expertise but also brings a lot of credibility and it's helped us attract other speakers," said Moody.
According to the North Carolina Energy Office, the UNC system spends $226 million per year on energy, or approximately $1000 per student. The office predicts that with increased demand and higher energy prices, the total amount spent on power could rise dramatically. The purpose of the summit is to discover new ways to cut those costs while still meeting the energy demands of the university system.
Appalachian State University and the Rocky Mountain Institute are partnering to host the summit and to work on developing a plan of "sustainability" for the entire system. Several private schools, including Catawba College, Davidson College, Duke University, Warren Wilson University, and Wake Forest University will also have roles in the summit.
"To be bringing together chancellors, to be bringing together financial officers and academic officers along with students and faculty and energy managers around this common problem, I think it's fairly unprecedented at the system level," Moody added.
The goals of the summit, as outlined and provided to WBTV include:
Educating students to be leaders of tomorrow
Reducing the university's average annual energy costs from $1000 to $500 per student.
Transforming the North Carolina economy
Positioning the UNC system as national leaders in this effort
Promoting the leadership of academic programs
Reducing reliance on fossil fuels
Promoting collaborative interactions between students and campus operations across the state
Inducing a culture of environmental and economic sustainability
Creating new partnerships between the universities, benefactors, and industry.