Renewables will represent 18% of the electricity purchased by App State in 2022 | mountain weather
BOONE – Hydroelectric and solar power purchases will increase Appalachian State University’s percentage of electricity supplied from renewables from 2% to 18% by early 2022.
The decision to increase the renewables supplied is possible primarily due to a plan implemented in 2014 to transition the App State New River Light and Power (NRLP) to a new electricity provider. This month, NRLP — an electric utility serving nearly 9,000 residential and commercial customers in the Boone area, including most of the App State campus — began purchasing its power from Carolina Power Partners. (PPC). The new wholesale contract with CPP provides the university and NRLP with new options for purchasing carbon-free electricity.
“For many years, the university has worked to renegotiate energy contracts as part of our overall commitment to reduce our use of fossil fuels,” said App State Chancellor Sheri Everts. “This fall, I was pleased to report a significant increase in the university’s renewable energy purchasing portfolio. We will continue these efforts as we progress in our work towards carbon neutrality. »
NRLP purchases renewable, emission-free hydroelectricity from Smoky Mountain’s 375 megawatt portfolio, consisting of four hydroelectric generating stations located along the Little Tennessee and Cheoah rivers in Tennessee and North Carolina. The portfolio is owned and operated by Brookfield Renewable US, one of the nation’s leading renewable energy owners, operators and developers.
The facilities have been certified by the Low Impact Hydropower Institute for adhering to a rigorous set of science-based environmental protection standards and social and cultural criteria.
The university purchases approximately 7,670 megawatt-hours (MWh) of hydroelectricity from NRLP using $100,000 in savings generated from energy efficiency efforts, as well as $50,000 from the Renewable Energy Initiative (REI) led by students, who voted to approve the funding allocation in the fall semester.
In addition to hydroelectricity, App State is finalizing an agreement with Blue Ridge Energy that will convert approximately 1,600 MWh of purchased electricity (based on three-year average annual usage) for the Levine Hall of Health Sciences – the most large university building in Boone – 100% solar powered from early 2022. Funding will come from the university’s facilities operating budget.
Purchasing carbon-free electricity is part of the university’s implementation of its latest climate action plan, “AppCAP 1.0”, which was adopted in 2021. The plan is a roadmap to guide App State towards climate neutrality.
Initiated by a student referendum in 2004, REI receives revenue from a student levy each semester to reduce the university’s environmental impact by implementing renewable energy technologies, investing in energy efficiency projects and promoting campus engagement. The initiative has funded projects such as solar thermal and photovoltaic facilities, a biodiesel storage tank and the 100 kilowatt wind turbine on Bodenheimer Drive.
Students from various fields of study participate in the REI Student Committee, which evaluates proposed funding allocations based on several factors, including return on investment, ethical sourcing, and climate justice. If the project meets the REI criteria, the committee recommends it to the REI student council for a vote.
“One of the things REI has to balance is getting as much impact as possible with student money. We want to demonstrate to the university the commitment of students to purchasing green electricity,” said REI, a graduate student in Appropriate Technology.
“We are really excited about it. We hope REI will be able to use its resources to support the climate action plan in other ways, such as funding renewable energy generation and energy efficiency,” Johnson said.
The new contract with CPP (formerly NTE Carolinas LLC) took several years to prepare, with Everts allowing negotiations to begin in 2014 and an agreement finalized in 2016. The previous wholesale power agreement with Blue Ridge Energy had a termination option at the end of 2021, allowing NRLP to seek a new electricity supplier from 2022.
“In 2014, thinking about the opportunity that presented itself with climate action in January 2022, that was very forward-thinking of Chancellor Everts and her leadership team at the time,” Lee said. Ball, App State’s sustainability manager.
Decarbonizing App State’s purchased electricity footprint, which accounts for approximately 40% of campus-wide greenhouse gas emissions, is a key strategy identified in the climate action plan developed by 13 different groups and over 50 students, faculty, staff and administrators. The groups – organized around priority areas such as power, transport, climate justice, food systems and resilience – worked to assess the impact of each area as it relates to the university’s carbon footprint and to recommend mitigation strategies and low-carbon alternatives.
In addition to expanding options for increasing the university’s renewable energy portfolio, NRLP’s purchase of hydroelectric power from the Smoky Mountain portfolio helps the town of Boone make progress toward its own climate goals. The city government, which is served by both NRLP and Blue Ridge Energy, purchases enough hydroelectric power in 2022 to cover all of the electricity it purchases through NRLP – approximately 25% of the electricity consumed by municipal operations. The city also purchases solar electricity from Blue Ridge Energy, its other electricity supplier, to offset the remaining 75% of electricity consumption at city facilities.
George Santucci, sustainability and special projects manager for the town of Boone, emphasized the importance of these efforts. Without them, he said, “Boone cannot achieve its goal of municipal climate neutrality by 2030 and transitioning the entire city to 100% clean, renewable energy by 2050.”
Individual energy customers also have the option of subscribing to NRLP’s green energy program. For an additional $5 per month, customers can purchase a 250 kilowatt-hour block of renewable hydroelectric power, and customers can purchase as many blocks as they want. The average residential customer can offset 100% of their electricity consumption for a total of $15 more per month. For more information, visit nrlp.appstate.edu.
“The recent approval to move to 100% renewable energy at all of our municipal facilities is an important step for the city in achieving our goals and will serve as an example of how private businesses and residents can join in. up to us to make a difference in our local community,” said Boone Town Manager John Ward.
Going forward, the NRLP contract with CPP provides the flexibility to shift current hydropower purchases to solar or other renewable sources. App State and NRLP continue to explore additional renewable energy options, Everts said.