by Joe Schwartz
CHAPEL HILL — UNC should go coal-free by 2020, 30 years earlier than the school’s current carbon-neutral target, according to a preliminary report adopted Wednesday by the Energy Task Force appointed by Chancellor Holden Thorp to identify ways to curb campus carbon emissions.
“What we’re saying is 2020 is as long as this should continue at a university,” Task Force Chairman Tim Toben said. “Coal is the big offender in the energy sector. The message from this task force is clear and unequivocal.”
The report, approved 8-0 with two members abstaining, offered six interim recommendations:
1) End all use of coal by May 1, 2020 with an aspirational target of May 1, 2015.
2) Accelerate the conversion from coal using some biomass, including wood pellets.
3) Source the biomass from certified sustainable forests
4) Make “best efforts” to use a third-party consultant to certify that the coal UNC uses is deep-mined only
5) Use more natural gas in the current boilers
6) Analyze solar thermal and solar photovoltaic possibilities every two years
Clean energy proponents celebrated the interim report, while realizing that they’ll now need to lobby Thorp to adopt it.
“We’re all pleased that something concrete happened, but we’re going to keep working,” said Stewart Boss, coordinator of Coal-Free UNC.
Namely, Boss wants to see a 2015 target and stronger language opposing mountaintop removal.
The task force, established in January, will spend its next four meetings tackling the question of increasing building efficiency and reducing energy consumption. To date, the group has focused on coal use at UNC's Cogeneration Plant on Cameron Avenue because it's responsible for 60 percent of campus greenhouse gas emissions.
Toben plans to offer a final report to Thorp in September.