Gov. Roy Cooper declared this week, Sept. 26 to 30, as North Carolina Clean Energy Week to highlight the state’s efforts in expanding clean energy programs.
Cooper said local governments and community organizations work to adopt cleaner energy to address climate change.
Amy Eckberg is the Orange County Sustainability Programs manager. She plans county-wide initiatives that incorporate sustainability into citizens’ daily lives, including the Community Climate Action Grant Program, which was established to accelerate climate change mitigation.
“The program has funded a lot of weatherization programs that are creating a lot of energy efficiency in our community, which is helping us to reduce our dependence on energy,” Eckberg said.
Orange County also joined Solarize the Triangle, which makes solar power more accessible to citizens and businesses by group-purchasing solar installations.
“The cost to install solar gets lower as more people participate,” John Richardson, the community resilience manager for the Town of Chapel Hill, said.
In both Orange County and the Town of Chapel Hill, transportation and infrastructure are the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, Richardson said.
“About 96 percent of all carbon emissions in Chapel Hill come from our buildings and from the transportation sector,” Richardson said. “We know that a transition to clean energy is essential to meeting our climate goals.”
UNC is ahead of the curve on multiple environmental state-wide executive orders. Executive Order 80 calls for a 40 percent decrease in greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. UNC met that goal in 2020.
The University is close to meeting the goal of reducing energy consumption per square foot in state-owned buildings by 40 percent, according to Melanie Elliott, sustainability analyst for Sustainable Carolina.
“Our latest data shows that we’ve reduced energy use intensity by 37 percent,” Elliott said. “Reducing energy use intensity is a big part of clean energy.”
Ideliya Khismatova, a UNC senior majoring in environmental science, is one of the co-chairpersons of the Renewable Energy Special Projects Committee. She felt encouraged by Cooper’s acknowledgment of clean energy efforts.
“This recognition moves us one step closer towards a clean energy transition as more people will become aware about clean energy and how the transition can be done,” Khismatova said in an email.
Peyton Lindogan, a UNC senior majoring in environmental science, quantitative energy and math, is an undergraduate research assistant working to manage renewable energy storage methods.
Last year, Lindogan made a map for UNC Energy Management to track which buildings on campus are the most efficient energy savers.
“Energy education is something that is really important because there’s just a lot of people who don’t know what’s going on in terms of energy transition,” Lindogan said. “They just see a wind turbine and go ‘Oh, okay cool,’ and not necessarily understand what the purpose behind that is.”
N.C. Clean Energy Week is a chance to showcase the work of government workers and community members who are making important changes. However, it is also an opportunity for citizens to consider how they may contribute to a future of cleaner energy.
“As we move to clean energy on a larger and industrial scale, people can take small steps on their own, such as reducing energy waste at home,” Khismatova said in an email. “Regardless of who you are, there is definitely something that every individual can do to help.”
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