The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Thursday September 29th

UNC not coal-free by 2020, but hopefully greenhouse gas-neutral by 2050

Brad Ives, associate vice chancellor for campus enterprises, said the University adopted a “wait and see” approach in 2012 to the coal-free deadline established by former Chancellor Holden Thorp. UNC made no public announcement about the approach.

“What we are working on is coming up with a realistic plan using technologies that are viable and developing a realistic financial time frame. We are highly committed to getting off of coal,” Ives said. “We’re just not willing to set a timeline that is arbitrary before we know what our technology is going to be.”

Ives said UNC will have a plan by the end of 2016 about how to convert the Cameron Avenue plant off of coal and how to be greenhouse gas neutral. He said UNC plans to be greenhouse gas neutral by 2050 and is looking to move up the timeline.

The 2020 coal-free deadline planned for the cogeneration plant on Cameron Avenue, which generates power for campus, to be converted off of coal use in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“Looking at what our sources were for greenhouse gas emissions, the Cameron Avenue plant was identified as our largest source of emissions,” Ives said.

Thorp created an energy task force to determine how the Cameron Avenue plant would be converted off coal.

David McNelis, director of the Center for Sustainable Energy, Environment and Economic Development and former member of the task force, said the group met with vendors who had insight into alternate fuel sources.

“It’s probably the cleanest coal-fired power plant you’ll ever run into in your life,” McNelis said. “I would like to get off of coal also, but it is a particularly clean operation.”

He said the methods of ash disposal and the types of coal the plant purchases impact the amount of emissions.

Ives said the cost of converting the plant and UNC’s focus on the wrong technologies caused the change in plans. He said UNC was still paying for the 1991 construction of the plant and did not have the money available to convert it off coal before 2020.

Dustin Chicurel-Bayard, communications director for the North Carolina chapter of the Sierra Club, said it is important for universities to take the lead in becoming greenhouse gas neutral.

“The community recognized the need to get off of fossil fuels, and in the case of UNC to stop burning coal. Finding a new solution to do that should not be thrown by the wayside because it’s a little more challenging than once thought,” he said.

Anita Simha, a member of the UNC Sierra Student Coalition, said it is important for students to put pressure on the administration to commit to these environmental goals.

“If we can make it more of a student issue, then it’s not just created by them,” she said. “It’s sustained by students, and suddenly there’s a pressure to actually follow through with the goals.”


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