November 5, 2011

SSREC kicks off: Watch out Asheville! 400+ students for clean energy

More than 400 students arrived at University of North Carolina-Asheville for the 7th annual Southeast Student Renewable Energy Conference (SSREC). There was a lot of energy in the air as students checked in, reconnected, and got prepared for the beginning of a weekend of organizing, attending workshops, and an action to demand clean energy.

Lauren Reilley, a student from Florida YES Coalition, opened up the night by reminding everyone that we may not know what we want to do with our lives or what job we want after we graduate, but we know we have to work for a 100% clean energy economy.

Larry Shirley, the North Carolina Department of Commerce's Director of the Green Economy, gave the opening night's keynote address to talk about the concrete solutions at work in North Carolina. He explained the problems we face both in the Southeast and the US as whole. Our consumption of dirty energy continues to rise. Here in the South, we consume 44% of the nation's energy, while we only have a third of the population. The most frightening part is that renewables are less than 4% of our region's energy - about half of the amount of renewable energy used by the entire nation. Larry Shirley explained that our reliance on dirty energy, chiefly through energy use and transportation, has driven our greenhouse gases through the roof since 1990. We are already seeing the effects of climate change in the Southeast, especially on the East coast, but local communities are already organizing. Larry said, “renewables are getting some respect, folks, and they're coming up fast!”

Three Southeastern states - North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia - are on the top list for best wind potential, and it doesn't stop there. Here in the South, we have the potential to produce all of our energy needs with 100% clean energy. It is essential to push for policies that promote these viable solutions. Larry called on the crowd of young people to stay in the South. Referring to state renewable energy policies (of which NC is the only state in the Southeast to adopt), Shirley said, “I know people out there are afraid of these. It's lonely out there. We need you. So please work for it.”

For the next two days, 400 students from the Southeast will be working on it. We will be coming up with solutions and creating stronger, bigger campaigns to take to our campuses.

Stay tuned for more updates!