We randomly approached some of our sponsors and leadership during the opening night reception of the 5th Annual Appalachian Energy Summit at Appalachian State University. Here’s what they had to say about the summit, energy innovation and the global impact of this initiative.
- As a leader in contract energy performance, how has the summit changed your thinking about energy usage and improved best practices?
“The way I think about energy has been reemphasized the way Appalachian reacted to the need to do something. Sustainability, saving money, saving resources – ASU has done all of the above and taken the lid off of all our expectations. This is a big barrel of expectations…our energy work performance contract with Appalachian is actually paid for by savings. We’re finishing up our last project [over six years] and it represents $23 million of energy savings to Appalachian’s benefit. All paid for by savings. This has been a team effort. One side says, ‘How about if we do this?’ The other guy says, ‘How about if we do that?’ It goes around like that and gets a little better, a little bigger, a little better. In the end, we all win.”
- How does the Appalachian Energy Summit broaden leaders’ understanding of issues facing the state?
“One of the critical parts of fulfilling our mission is for me to have a deeper understanding [around energy innovation] so I can share with class participants and alumni emerging trends and how industry is changing in a most dynamic way. There is tremendous value in bringing multiple players to the table to have conversations, folks who all have a stake in North Carolina, who will help North Carolina move forward and who represent all types of constituencies.
“I’m excited about the growth in renewables and that a lot of the players are seeing that the technology is catching up. It’s now a balance sheet item. We’re to the point where renewables are commercially viable and are catching some traction.”
- You spoke about the role of compassion in business. How does that relate to the Appalachian Energy Summit?
“Everything is about compassion, empathy. This summit is looking at the big picture and it’s looking at the future with a sense of urgency...unlike anything we’ve ever faced. [Energy issues] seem to be accelerating and it touches all aspects of our lives. When you see the kindness from the people here at Appalachian, the involvement of the students, the way students are so courteous... The facilities are unbelievable, spectacular. Putthese people and this mission in a great setting, and then you have thoughtful, interesting discussions with leaders… it changes you. For HOUZE to totally shift our business models off of fossil fuels, to shift to renewables and energy storage and smart energy is significant. And if that’s compassion, that’s compassion. Impacting lives is really the take-away.”
- Are there global applications for the work done in this small, rural community?
“The Appalachian Energy Summit is definitely impacting what we’re doing in not only in the United States but around the world. We’re right now with several global leading companies on applications that will be deployed in seven pilot projects in seven different countries. The App Energy Summit will have a direct impact and application to these projects. However, this is beyond energy, it’s about quality of life and addressing the environment. How do we protect it? How do we create a sustainable platform and leave the world a better place? We all go away at some point and we have huge responsibility, especially when our eyes have been opened. Sometimes we’d rather not hear it, and then we’re not as accountable. But once your hear it, you’re accountable.”
- What are the benefits a renewable energy company can gain from participation in the summit? Are you finding information that is applicable to NTE’s projects currently underway in NC?
“NTE Energy is looking forward to providing assistance to Appalachian State University in achieving their sustainability goals, as well as interacting with students to generate discussion about the future of energy generation. The Appalachian Energy Summit is an exemplary venue for NTE to more fully understand ASU’s sustainability goals and to clarify strategies and offerings that NTE can provide to assist the school in achieving those goals.”
- What is the advantage for UNC system employees who participate in the summit and what overall benefit have you seen at the system level?
“There are only so many times in a year when you can get together with colleagues off your own campus. If you can get together with colleagues in your particular area of expertise, that’s really valuable. It’s really valuable to know what other campuses are doing. We [the UNC-GA] want to be a hub of sharing knowledge across the campuses and it is always best face to face.
“The bottom line benefit is that energy savings is in the hundreds of millions of dollars in the last decade. I don’t think that is well known. What the universities have been able to do with energy efficiency, particularly with our buildings, is nothing short of remarkable. The $500 million number of cost avoidance – which is about a year old – is stunning. A million here, a million there, you’ve got real money.”
Dr. Jeff Ramsdell
Professor in Appalachian’s Department of Sustainable Technology and the Built Environment and director of the Appalachian Energy Center
- In your opinion, what is the major take-away of the Appalachian Energy Summit?
“It’s all about giving students, faculty, staff and administrators multiple perspectives – cross cultural, cross disciplinary – different perspectives which will enable them to understand and incorporate other’s views.”
D. Kenan Smith ’84
Managing partner of Second Creek Development Company, Appalachian State University Board of Trustees
- How has the summit evolved since the beginning and what are your expectations for this year’s event?
“We were thinking smaller until we got our bearings. We wanted to collaborate, to break down silos in this institution and among the other institutions. My expectation for these next four days is for people to talk, make relationships with comrades and reach out if they have a problem to someone in their field. The big picture is to educate the students so they have skills. They are going to change our world. With the 50 colleges and universities, who knows how many hundreds of thousands of students, maybe even millions of students, may benefit from this. We want them to have a better world. I want a better world for my kids and my grandkids and it’s going to be up to the students.That’s why we’re here.”
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July 25, 2016
With the theme of “Knowledge. Collaboration. Action.”, Appalachian welcomes more than 450 leaders to its 5th Annual Appalachian Energy Summit.
About Sustainability at Appalachian
Appalachian State University’s leadership in sustainability is known nationally. The university’s holistic, three-branched approach considers sustainability economically, environmentally and equitably in relationship to the planet’s co-inhabitants. The university is an active steward of the state’s interconnected financial, cultural and natural resources and challenges students and others think critically and creatively about sustainability and what it means from the smallest individual action to the most broad-based applications. The university offers both undergraduate and graduate academic degree programs that focus on sustainability. In addition, 100 percent of Appalachian’s academic departments offer at least one sustainability course or course that includes sustainability, and all students graduate from programs that have adopted at least one sustainability learning outcome. Learn more at https://appstate.edu/sustainability.
About Appalachian State University
As the premier, public undergraduate institution in the state of North Carolina, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls more than 19,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.