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On World Water Day, Recognizing the Water and Energy Nexus

Growing up in Florida, I probably spent 75% of my childhood in and around water. Be it swimming in clear cool springs, fishing along black bottom creeks, playing in the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean or just running through the sprinkler in the backyard, water played a huge role in my childhood.

I didn’t really think much about water beyond how fun it was to go to Kingsley Lake or tube down the Ichetucknee River. As I got older, I became more aware of the impacts we have on our local waterways and how much our lives depend on them -not just for staying cool in the summer time, but for our overall survival and livelihood.

It wasn’t until my family moved to Georgia when I was in middle school that I realized the threats facing Southern water resources. As I have grown older, I’ve become increasingly aware of how important, yet fragile our waters truly are. I remember all too well driving back home for a visit in the summer of 2007 (I was living and working in New Orleans at the time).  It was surreal to see the impacts of the drought – to witness what were once floating dock sitting on the mud flats of a shrinking Lake Lanier. That same summer, the Browns Ferry nuclear power plant in Alabama had to be temporarily shut down because water in the Tennessee River was too hot to cool the reactors. And then in the fall the University of Georgia had official “flushers” in bathrooms at football games in order conserve limited water supplies in Athens.

Today, on World Water Day, it’s important to look at the full impacts dirty energy and global warming have on our lives. Across the world and particularly here in the South, global warming is shifting rain patterns and temperatures. Creating an interesting mix of increased rain (except in South Florida) as well as prolonged and more severe droughts.

Not only is our region one of the largest contributors to the problem of global warming, our power is extremely water intensive. For example, here in Georgia the energy sector is the largest consumer of water statewide. It’s troubling to think that one day flipping on the lights could compete with turning on the faucet.

For the future of our region, it’s critical to begin the transition away from dirty, water intensive power sources and towards a cleaner, more sustainable energy future.

In celebration of World Water Day, take time to support the Define Our Decade campaign, and vote for a clean, renewable, water-responsible energy future.

March 22, 2010 at 8:27 pm 3 comments

The University of Georgia Energy Scoop

So, where is UGA now as far as renewable energy goes?  In an hour long interview with our very own Ken Crowe, Director of Energy Services, Stanley Dieleman, a Southern Energy Network Efficiency Fellow, and Garrett Brewer, a UGA Graduate student with energy policy experience, were all able to get several ideas, policies, and future initiatives on paper. The main point of this meeting was to collect information and cold hard facts about our energy use. The information will be used to educate many new students who don’t have a clue as to what is being done on campus, and show them what we are doing, as a university, to fulfill our commitment to excellence here at UGA.

UGA_Northwest Corner_18x24

New centralized cooling plant for northwest precinct of UGA campus

So lets start with the big question, which seems to be on most people’s minds. How much is The University of Georgia actually spending on energy? Well, according to Crowe, somewhere in the ballpark of $28 million per year. Sound huge? The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill generates a bill of around $83 million per year. With this being said, it may sound like UGA is already leading the way in energy efficiency, but what I failed to mention before is that none of UGA’s energy comes from renewable sources. The University of North Carolina gets almost 25 percent from renewable sources. With a price tag of 3.4 additional cents per kilowatt-hour for renewable energy, the University of Georgia just cannot afford it. Instead, says Crowe, the University plans to invest money in its own renewable energy sources, such as photovoltaic panels, which could be easily applied onto many university facility roofs. UGA has not fully committed to this yet, but plans are being made.

The big project this year, and into 2010, is the construction of a brand new centralized cooling plant for the new northwest precinct of campus. The plant will centralize the cooling process, leading to a huge reduction in energy usage. According to Crowe, the more efficient coolant units, in addition to the plant’s centralized location, will reduce UGA’s energy use by as much as 25 percent for the buildings served by the plant.

Besides implementing these projects, UGA and the physical plant will continue urging the university to reduce energy by passing numerous policies focusing on basic student and faculty lifestyles. This includes simple things, such as turning off lights, to more extensive measures such as not using certain steam facilities in the summer due to a decrease of facility usage. Campus energy use has decreased 5% over its level three years ago and is well on its way to achieving the Governor’s Energy Challenge. This means reducing energy use, per square foot of building space, to 15% by the year 2020.

I will add one last thought that has been brought up many times by students and faculty interested in our energy future. Will UGA hire a head figure to tackle our energy issues and establish new policies and initiatives? This figure would be commonly known as a Director of Sustainability. When asked what UGA plans to do as far as establishing an Office of Sustainability on campus, Crowe replies that President Adams will probably reveal his plans in January as he addresses the recommendations of the Sustainability Working Group’s report.  This group has compiled a catalog of existing sustainable programs and activities on campus and has recommended actions to further the practice of sustainability on campus.

The University of Georgia is starting to make headway with its energy conservation and policy, but it still lags behind many schools, which have invested much more into sustainability. Hopefully with new economic times and more funds to work with, UGA will finally make energy efficiency a priority.

Stanley Dieleman, Southern Energy Network Efficiency Fellow

November 9, 2009 at 3:56 pm Leave a comment

Preparing for a Summer of Action

Now that classes are over, exams are done, and grades are in, I – along with millions of other students across the U.S. – have finally begun to prepare for what will undoubtedly be an incredibly exciting summer. I’ll certainly be keeping busy with classes, work, and plenty of travel plans, but, to be completely honest, I’m excited about much more than beach trips, concerts, and spending time with my friends and family.

In recent years, climate and energy issues have gained considerable media momentum and have garnered the attention of politicians across the country. President Obama has spoken about the issue and people across the planet are beginning to take serious notice. As both a young person and someone who cares deeply about these issues, I have decided to spend my summer working with other young people to push for bold change in current U.S. climate policies. This is an incredibly exciting time for the U.S. and given what’s going on in D.C., this summer is the time for change.

Perhaps one of the most exciting events of the summer is California Rep. Henry Waxman’s climate bill, which was proposed earlier this spring. The bill, formally titled the American Clean Energy and Securities Act of 2009, is currently in the hands of the Energy and Commerce Committee, where it is being revised and edited. In its current state, the bill seeks to define “clean energy” and regulate it on the national level, plans to enforce a cap on carbon emissions, and promises to enact new efficiency standards for the transportation, construction, and energy industries. If anything, the introduction of this bill shows that our elected officials are beginning to realize that the demand for drastic change cannot be met with legislative inaction.

All said, aspects of the bill absolutely must be stronger and we, as advocates for a safer, healthier future, need to speak loudly and let our demands be known. We need a bill with renewable energy targets that mirror the numbers suggested by scientific research, we need a bill that does not give pollution handouts to dirty energy corporations, and we need a bill that will provide the appropriate funding and resources to fully support a nationwide transition to a clean energy future.

Our future is at stake and as both young people and environmental advocates, it’s our job to demand a strong bill that is hopeful and promises to make deep, lasting changes. It’s up to us to inspire our elected officials and although it won’t be an easy job, it’s certainly not impossible.

First, it’s up to us to hold our elected officials accountable for their part in the construction and movement of this bill. We need to contact our congressmen (by phone, e-mail, mail, fax, etc.) and demand that they request changes that reflect the interests of their constituents. We elected them, we are trusting them with a huge responsibility. It’s imperative that we tell them what we need and let them know that we’re paying attention.

We also need to raise public awareness by telling our stories. We can write letters to the editor, opinion editorials, blog posts, facebook posts, twitter feeds. Further, it’s critical that we speak about this issue whenever possible. Tell your friends, family, classmates, colleagues, and neighbors about the bill and explain what they can do to help. Let them know that they, too, can write a Letter to the Editor or phone their congressman. It may sound surprising, but one well-written editorial makes a difference, just the same as one vote can make a difference.

The key to inspiring change is a combination of awareness and action; we need to be knowledgeable of the federal goings-on while also encouraging our communities, universities, and local governments to fight for bold national change. It’s a tough job, but we proved ourselves with Power Vote and Power Shift. As young people, students, and individuals who care deeply about our country’s future, we create a strong, unified voice and we have all the ambition, intelligence, and creativity necessary to inspire change. Let’s talk about this bill, let’s write about this bill, and let’s prove that we’ve got a mission and a purpose. Now is the time to demand bold action and even bolder change and though the summer may be short, now is the time to make it happen.

Brittany Forrestal

Communications Fellow

May 21, 2009 at 4:49 pm Leave a comment

Owning Our Movement: Turning “Junk” into Action

Now more than ever grassroots fundraising is critical to keeping our organizations and campaigns strong. It’s also a great opportunity for us to both literally and figuratively “own” our movement. Ellie Johnston, SEN Steering Committee member, and other incredible activists in Asheville did just that and raised over $1,000 to support our work.

Students at UNC Asheville clean house and raise money to support climate action

Students at UNC Asheville clean house and raise money to support climate action

Check out what Ellie had to say about their event:

So as people who want to work towards a just and sustainable future we often face a dilemma in how to get the money to accomplish our goals. Grassroots fundraising should compliment the grassroots organizing that we are doing, right? But how do you sustain and support an organization with grassroots fundraising?

The students at UNC Asheville have renewed an age old method of raising funds–the yard sale. Selling your stuff is a great way to get some dough. If your a college student though, who just wants to support an organization and doesn’t own a bunch of stuff that you can give up, what do you do? Sell other peoples stuff.

At UNCA we had planned to have a yardsale as part of our Greenfest week for months, but 10 days out we still hadn’t gotten any donations in response to the flyers we had put up. So, we took a more proactive approach to getting stuff to sell. We realized that people who have yard sales have stuff they want to get rid of and by the end of the yard sale they still are left with stuff they want to get rid of. So we offered to pick up people’s yard sale leftovers in order to get it out of their hands and more importantly away from the landfill. A day and a half spent picking up yard sale leftovers around town resulted in a ton of really great items that we could then sell at our own yard sale the following week.

Early on we had decided on two things about this yard sale. First this was going to be a yardsale for the Southern Energy Network who has supported our organization on a lot things throughout the year and is going through a financial pinch like the rest of the world. And second, that we weren’t going to dictate to anyone what they would pay for items.

On the day of the yard sale we had it all setup out on UNC Asheville’s Quad and waited for people to come. People came trickling on to the Quad in hopes of seeing the huge yard sale that we had advertised. At the register people would come up with their rollerblades, coffee makers, and flannel shirts while we explained that the proceeds from this yard sale were going to the Southern Energy Network and asked them to make an offer on what they were buying. No offer was ever turned down and many were really quite generous. In all we got just over $1000 from selling people’s leftovers, not bad eh?

People everywhere love a good deal. Now that the weather has warmed the bargain hunters are on the prowl and would love to support your favorite organization (especially when they find that Mt. Rushmore tea cup to complete their collection).

A huge thanks to Ellie and team! Also to Reagan Richmond and students in Tennessee for the $250 they raised for SEN through an art opening and raffle.

Feel inspired, support SEN and our work to promote a youth-led movement for a clean, just and sustainable energy future!

April 17, 2009 at 6:02 pm Leave a comment


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