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Duke students won’t settle for false climate solutions

Renewable energy has been growing at record rates nationwide thanks to plummeting costs: solar and wind accounted for over two-thirds of new energy capacity in 2015, more than double the amount of new natural gas capacity. Meanwhile, natural gas prices are projected to rise in the coming years, making cost-competitive renewable energy even more attainable. Why, then, has Duke University proposed construction of a new Duke Energy-owned natural gas power plant on campus?

Duke University claims to have entered into this agreement in the name of its 2024 climate neutrality goal; however, a major investment into non-renewable energy is a short-sighted approach to a long-term problem. The university has cited substantial emissions reductions that will result from the proposed new plant, but continued reliance on fossil fuels has never been, and never will be, a solution to climate change. The proposed natural gas plant represents a 35-year binding commitment to continued carbon pollution, despite economic trends that will inevitably favor renewable energy. Duke University’s decision to invest in the “less dirty” over the truly “clean” threatens the position it has long claimed for itself as a climate leader. After a strong statement mere weeks ago in support of improving state renewable energy policy, the university’s turn back to fossil fuels is clearly a step in the wrong direction.

Most importantly, the proposed contract between Duke University and Duke Energy sets a dangerous precedent for other universities to loan out their campuses as sites of fossil fuel-fired plants. Duke Energy intends to replicate this model with other large energy consumers, locking rate-payers into an energy source that is neither economically nor environmentally sound. Current university students and future generations are the ones that will bear the burden of unmitigated climate change if decision-makers continue to choose fossil fuels. Students don’t want to settle for false solutions – give us the clean, renewable energy we deserve.

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