Home > Uncategorized > Duke Energy Presentation Met with Mixed Feelings by Elon Students, Faculty

Duke Energy Presentation Met with Mixed Feelings by Elon Students, Faculty

By Christina Edwards

September 10, 2008

Elon University is embracing sustainability full force. All students on meal plan this year were provided with water bottles and encouraged to use them with meal purchases. The uniforms of Aramark staff are now made with organic fabrics. Bottled water has been replace by filtered water.

And on September 9, the College of Arts and Science’s Voices of Discovery series got its start with a presentation on the future in energy by Duke Energy president Ellen Ruff.

“I want you to think about what you would do if you were in my shoes,” said Ruff.

“Part of the reasoning behind [choosing Ruff] was a potential partnership between Duke and Elon’s campus, and what we can do for sustainability,” said Breanna Detwiler, a senior environmental science major who introduced Ruff’s speech.

Ruff discussed with her audience in McCrary theatre the future in fuel, touching on both energy efficiency and cost effectiveness. She cited customer service as the ultimate factor.

“Our job is to be there with electric for the customers at the least cost,” said Ruff. “The business only succeeds if the customer succeeds, but we want to do it the right way. The key words are clean, reliable, and affordable.

While Ruff claims concern in trying to mesh the environmentally friendly with the business demands of a large corporation, several members of the Elon community questioned the practices and plans of the power plant.

“I was interested in it until I found out the speaker was from Duke Energy,” said Molly Schrieber, sophomore and president of the Sierra Club. “It’s a business. They’re more concerned about the money.”

During the question and answer session following Ruff’s speech, some audience members scrutinized Ruff’s emphasis on cost. One audience member asked what percent of the concern was environmental and what was cost; another asked why invest 2 billion dollars on cleaner coal rather than spend money on research for more efficient fuels.

“We have to deliver on energy to our customers,” Ruff said in response.

Duke Energy is currently building two natural gas stations in the Carolinas, which provide cleaner fuel with volatile prices. Money invested in energy efficiency is subject to regulation approval and customer participation before it can be fully explored. The plant is also building it’s first nuclear power plant since 1986 in Gaffney, SC.

“We are seeing the resurgence of nuclear power, but is heavily regulated, which is probably a good thing, but it makes us very slow,” said Ruff of the plant, which may not open until 2016.

“Nuclear power is reliable and clean, but expensive.”
Audience members took concern with this statement as well. One faculty member raised concerns about the long term cost of storing nuclear waste.

In contrast, some were pleased with Ruff’s attention to the energy issue.

“I was really impressed. I was happy she talked about water, because water issues do directly effect farming and when it’s effecting people directly, they’re more likely to pay attention,” said Detwiler.

Ruff closed her remarks with again asking the audience to think about what their plan would be as the president of a large corporation dealing with energy issues.

“She kept asking us what we would do, what our plan would be. But I don’t really see her having a plan,” said sophomore Elizabeth Rice.

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