The Daily Gamecock

USC, Duke Energy partner for series

Executive details plan to reduce reliance on coal


Students and faculty gathered in the Russell House Theater Tuesday afternoon to hear a Duke Energy executive, lay out plans for a sustainable future less reliant on coal.

The seminar was the kickoff to a new program, "Duke Energy Executive-in-Residence," a partnership between USC and the Charlotte-based company. The program is intended to give students and faculty an opportunity to interact with Duke Energy executives in creating a more energy efficient campus. Executives will visit the university to teach classes, hold roundtable discussions and give seminars on energy conservation.

But Duke Energy, among the nation's largest producers of nuclear power, also has critics in environmental circles. The company is building a nuclear plant in Cherokee County, S.C., and a $2.4 billion coal-fired power generator 50 miles west of Charlotte, in Cliffside, N.C.. Once the coal plant opens in 2012, Duke plans to close four of its older coal plants.

Catherine Heigel, president of Duke Energy's South Carolina division, said the program is designed to open a two-way dialogue between industry and USC.

Janice Hager, the Vice President of Integrated Planning and Regulated Analytics, gave the seminar, titled "Building a Sustainable Energy Future." It focused primarily on the amount of energy we are using now, the problems with nonrenewable resources and the future of energy.

According to Hager, the majority of our energy comes from two resources: nuclear energy and coal. She hopes to cut down on the company's use of coal and replace it with more nuclear, hydrogen and renewable energy. Despite high hopes, Duke Energy is currently facing several problems including aging infrastructure of resource factories, environmental regulations and more growth and demand.

The need for energy, especially in South Carolina, continues to increase because of a rising population. Hager predicts that approximately 1.1 million people will move to South Carolina within the next several years. Due to the increasing usage of energy, resources are decreasing despite businesses and homes becoming more efficient.

To provide sustainable energy, Duke Energy has to spend more money for development and factory construction. Hager said the company is fighting to keep price ranges for customers low.

"My job is to deliver clean, affordable, reliable energy," Hager said. "If I don't achieve all of those, I fail. It's not a two out of three situation."
Ideas have been proposed as to what can be done to conserve energy. Several resources are available that will help lower the human carbon foot print, including efficient and renewable energies such as wind and solar power.

Renewable materials are carbon-free, inexpensive and are widely available. Duke Energy says it and the public fully embraces energy efficient products and that the only setback is convincing costumers to try something new.

Fourth-year sports management student Tiara Johnson was impressed by Hager and Duke Energy.

"I'm glad to know that companies are trying to lower their impact as well as educate others on sustainable energy," said Johnson, who also is also a council member of Sustainable Carolina. "I'm looking forward to the new sustainability class that will teach students environmentally friendly ways to secure energy."