Energy Summit

Majora Carter

Former director of the EPA Gina McCarthy and urban revitalization specialist Majora Carter headlined the sixth annual Appalachian Energy Summit (AES), held July 10-12 on the campus of Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina. A yearly gathering of the world’s most brilliant minds in energy policy and practices, the AES convenes academia, industry, and students to deliver meaningful ecological, financial, and social benefit.

The 2017 theme, “Perspectives: Policy & Practice” aimed to highlight the multiple viewpoints necessary to develop successful strategies in energy and policy. McCarthy and Carter’s keynote speeches, given Monday and Tuesday evenings respectively, were open to the general public in an effort to include the community in this important work. McCarthy’s talk, “The Business Case for Sustainability”, included an armchair discussion with physicist and co-founder and Chief Scientist of Rocky Mountain Institute, Amory Lovins, and NC State PhD Candidate Ashish Virmani. Carter’s inspirational speech on Tuesday evening, “Community as Corporation: Projects, Policies and Programs”, included a lively question and answer session with the audience.

Gina McCarthy

The summit, attended by over 500 invited guests, included three days’ worth of plenary sessions in the Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts, where attendees heard from renowned speakers including author and advisor David Orr, Director of Executive Education for Sustainability with Harvard University's Center for Health and the Global Environment Leith Sharp, and Secretary of the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality Michael Regan. Topics were far-ranging and dynamic, such as redefining leadership roles in sustainability, climate stress and democracy, clean energy policy drivers, and rethinking education on a changing planet.

The summit also included working group sessions, where attendees broke off into specific groups to identify and tackle specific problems related to their field or area of interest. Groups include Zero Waste, Finance, Regulatory, and Energy Generation, High Performance Campus Design, and Academic Integration. These expert think-tanks met for hours each day of the summit, to set, refine, and review goals.

Running in conjunction with the regular AES was the student summit, where over 100 college students from all over the world convened to meet with industry experts, fellow students, and thought leaders in energy and sustainability. The student summit featured speakers of special interest to current students in areas such as innovation, entrepreneurship, and the evolving roles of students and education. The student summit also included networking sessions, where attendees could talk with sponsors, companies, and summit attendees to further their research and interests.

Over 30 students also participated in the Poster Competition, where they entered a juried contest to develop, design, and present a poster related to a particular area of energy. These posters were presented panel of 17 judges during the summit, with winners and cash prizes awarded at the closing session. Categories and winners were: Undergraduate Project/Research- Isaac Hayes (Western Carolina University), Graduate Research- Steven de Jongh (UNC Charlotte), PhD Research- Ashfanoor Kabir (NC State), and Graduate Project- Sushant Shetgeri (NC State).

Additionally, during the course of the week, seven meetings were hosted by the AES staff. Because the summit attracted industry professionals from all over the east coast, the opportunity for networking and strategic planning at Appalachian State was ideal. The meetings ranged from groups interested in large scale photovoltics to the development of green fees for students. Other meetings involved regional zero waste experts and faculty interested in research on utility grids.