On January 18, UNC-Chapel Hill Student Government will host an Energy Transition Town Hall. The event is supported by UNC Institute for the Environment and Sustainable Carolina. Administrators, staff, and student activists will gather at Dey Hall in Toy Lounge for a Q&A panel.
Jimmy Dögerl serves as director of environmental affairs for Graduate and Professional Student Government. Ella Feathers and Jacob Crawford lead environmental affairs on the undergraduate side. Last fall, they started talking with Chief Sustainability Officer Mike Piehler about coordinating a town hall event.
“The energy transition is important to me because we all have a part to play in making our communities — and the world overall — more sustainable,” says Feathers. “Reducing our carbon footprint by transitioning to greener, cleaner, and more sustainable energies is a really big piece of that.”
Sustainability Analyst Melanie Elliott will discuss historical data and recent progress on campus greenhouse gas emissions. Alex Hopkins, a research associate with the Energy Transition Initiative, will talk about creative solutions that could move the needle forward for the University. Student activists will share how they’ve managed to make an impact in the renewable space at the University.
As special assistant to the chancellor for sustainability, Piehler will represent the administrative side.
“We’re in an exciting place with the energy transition,” says Piehler. “We’ve reduced emissions by 40% since 2007, and we’re on track to reach the goals we set for 2040. As we seek out new opportunities to implement cleaner fuels at the cogeneration plant, we’re updating our Climate Action Plan accordingly. This gives transparency to how the University is working to reach its goals.”
In 2009, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s original Climate Action Plan set a goal of being carbon neutral by 2050. The University’s latest Climate Action Plan, published in 2021, moves this goal up 10 years, to 2040.
The University is currently prioritizing projects that will lower greenhouse gas emissions and improve equity. There’s also an emphasis on projects that are technically, financially, and practically feasible.
“If we want to stop climate change we really need to switch from fossil fuels to green energy,” says Dögerl. “Universities like Chapel Hill have a huge role to play in this, so it’s very important that we use all the money we have and put it toward the energy transition.”
The Energy Transition Town Hall is on Wednesday, January 18 from 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. in Dey Hall, Toy Lounge. It’s free and open to faculty, staff, and students. Coffee and snacks will be available for attendees.