In May of 2016 Duke University announced its partnership with Duke Energy to build a natural gas plant on campus. Duke Energy will own and operate the facility, which costs $55 million. Duke describes the partnership as a way to create a diversity of energy and lower carbon emissions for the University by 25 percent.
Duke should be wary of building such a plant on campus at a time when the Trump Administration expressed a disinterest in the environment and the EPA is in peril. Duke chose to reveal its plans after students left for summer break, which not only reflects a lack of community engagement—only making Duke more isolated from Durham—but it also undermines Duke’s environmental leadership.
Currently, Duke produces its own steam power. If the new plant is approved, Duke will be dependent on both steam and electric power from Duke Energy. This plant marks University’s investment in fossil fuels well beyond 2050. Duke’s decision will also impact other universities that consider similar agreements.
Barriers to renewable energy growth in North Carolina are due to poor policy, not lack of resources. This spring, Duke University wrote a public letter to state legislators advocating for the legalization of third-party energy sales that would make renewable energy more accessible and affordable. Duke should continue this strong environmental leadership.
The proposed plant is not just a matter of emissions but also of our University’s integrity. As one of the nation’s leaders in sciences, Duke should invest in renewable energy. At a time when the head of the EPA denies human-caused climate change, Duke must distance itself from the false rhetoric of the fossil fuel industry.
The shady reputation of Duke Energy does not serve our University well either. Duke Energy has tainted drinking water near Scottsdale and is responsible for the toxic coal ash spill of 2014. Duke students should hold the University accountable for being a leader in sustainability, public health and renewable energy.
- Sydney Smith (T'18)
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.