USC’s Beyond Coal Campaign provided a forum Monday with more than 100 faculty members, students, community members and political leaders in attendance to discuss the university’s transition to clean energy.
Forty percent of the energy used by USC comes from two major coal plants outside the Los Angeles area, according to a handout produced by USC Beyond Coal Campaign. In 2009, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced the city would stop its use of coal by the year 2020.
“The commitment is still there, how quickly L.A. gets there is the issue,” said Romel Pascual, deputy mayor for Energy and the Environment.
Jeffrey Richardson, president and CEO of Imani Energy, INC., said he regards USC as the leader in moving toward a carbon-free future.
“Universities are the ones controlling a lot of land and energy,” Richardson said. “If the largest purchaser, USC, moves, everything will change.”
To make Villaraigosa’s commitment to the city a reality, USC student-based organizations such as the Beyond Coal Campaign, are asking for the assistance and support of the administration.
“Vice President [of Administration] Todd Dickey is on board with the campaign, but there is a difference between support and concrete steps,” said Henry Symons, a Beyond Coal organizer.
Proposed plans for a carbon-free university entail the termination of USC’s dependence on coal as an energy source, with solar energy in its place, said Mark Bernstein, managing director of USC’s Energy Institute. Bernstein also estimates clean energy, such as solar energy, will help improve energy efficiency by 20 percent at USC. These are only proposed ideas, however, and nothing has been written yet.
Bernstein suggests panels could be installed easily on all new, non-historic USC-owned buildings. The installation of solar power will in turn alleviate the university’s dependence on coal.
“We are the institution for change, if we stop buying coal it can have a huge ripple affect,” said Valeria Pentelute, a freshman majoring in economics, and member of the USC Beyond Coal Campaign.
Pentelute said the forum resulted in hope for a better, cleaner future.
“I’m so thrilled by the turnout and discussion. We are moving towards progress and there are so many positive arguments to be made against coal,” said Pentelute.
Tony Guan, a junior majoring in philosophy, politics and law, and a member of USC’s Beyond Coal Campaign, said nothing is in writing yet, but support for the transition has been garnered from the student body, faculty and administration. USC continues to wait on a steadfast commitment from administration to transition away from their heavy coal usage.
The power ultimately lies within the ability of the student body to pressure administration for clean energy.
“The key to make it happen is grassroots organization … [Students] are customers on campus,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, an environmental group that aims to protect forests and wildlife areas.
Symons said an early start is key.
“The earlier we move, the more of a leader USC will be for L.A.,” Symons said.