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Panel meets to discuss coal divestment

Bill Currens, along with other panelists discuss energy trends, risks, and opportunities that could affect the university in the future. The event titled "The Future of Energy and Energy Investing" took place in Carroll Hall on Monday.
Bill Currens, along with other panelists discuss energy trends, risks, and opportunities that could affect the university in the future. The event titled "The Future of Energy and Energy Investing" took place in Carroll Hall on Monday.

All three panelists agreed that UNC has been a leader in sustainability thus far, and that other universities may soon follow suit.

Carol Hee, a professor in the Kenan-Flagler Business School, said the University’s goals in terms of climate change include becoming carbon-free by 2020.

“We are making progress,” she said. “Since 2009, energy consumption has been reduced by 30 percent and has saved a total of $22 million.

“We are a model of climate stewardship, and we can and should and will do more.”

Bill Currens, vice president of investor relations for Duke Energy, said adaptability and flexibility are important in terms of sustainable investment portfolios.

“This is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and it’s also not something you can change overnight,” he said. “What we are doing has made a pretty significant difference in our energy.”

Currens said customers are using electricity much differently than they did in the past.

“Growing technology allows customers to do things they couldn’t do before,” he said.

He said it is important to note that renewable energy sources can be difficult to manage at times.

“It’s very difficult to run an entire fleet with only renewables,” he said. “It can be a piece of the puzzle, but on a cloudy day, a solar generation source becomes challenging, and a wind farm can become challenging on a hot summer day.”

Christopher Demetropoulos is an investor at Trillium Asset Management , a company that specializes sustainable portfolios. He said the company has been dedicated to sustainable and responsible investing since 1982.

“We have a guide to help investors understand fossil fuel divestment,” he said.

“Initially, this was supposed to be about divesting from coal, but now we are looking at things overall.”

Demetropoulos said he is most excited about what UNC has done in terms of sustainability.

“The steps that you have taken have been phenomenal, and you have definitely been a leader in what you have done,” he said.

“I think that other universities are going to follow suit and UNC can lead the way.”

Hee said she wants to challenge students to think about sustainability using a national and global mindset.

“What we do at UNC is only a piece of the puzzle,” she said. “We need action at the congressional level.”

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