Experts from the renowned Rocky Mountain Institute will speak at the Center for the Environment at Catawba College on a new energy paradigm and the growth opportunities it will offer businesses and communities. The speakers will also address how the new approach will favorably impact air quality and other climate issues.
The presentation, "Tackling Air Quality & Climate Change Issues through a Low-Carbon Electrical System: Implications for Businesses and Communities," is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 18, in the Center for the Environment building on the Catawba campus. It is free and open to the public.
Speakers for the event will be Stephen Doig, a senior member of RMI who leads the Energy and Resources Team, and Lena Hansen, a principal on RMI's Energy and Resources Team. RMI Executive Director Martha Pickett will talk briefly about the organization.
"Our climate and environment are changing at an unprecedented rate, challenging our ability to thrive and prosper as a species," Doig says. Manmade greenhouse gas emissions — roughly 40 percent of which stem from the generation of electricity — are at the root of many of those changes. Power plant emissions can also cause widespread problems such as acid rain, smog and heavy metal deposition.
"Those growing issues occur, in large measure, because our electric system has not changed substantially since its establishment and relies heavily on fossil fuel-based plants," Doig says.
The principals at RMI believe it is possible to transform the current electrical system into a clean, low-carbon system that is cost-effective, reliable and secure. "This transformation will require the thoughtful integration of energy efficiency, renewable energy and enabling, intelligent infrastructure led by business and supported by government," he says.
Businesses and communities stand to gain from this new paradigm. "There will be opportunities for entrepreneurs, for technical investigation, for on-the-ground jobs — both blue collar and white collar," Doig says. "This enormous industry that is a cornerstone in our daily lives needs to transform itself. If communities and businesses think ahead, they can become leaders in this important effort."
RMI is a nonprofit organization that fosters the efficient and restorative use of resources so that companies, governments and organizations can be more efficient, make more money and help the environment. It is engaged in cutting-edge research on oil independence, renewable energy technologies, distributed energy, resource planning, green buildings and radically efficient transportation.
"RMI has for a long time been working with businesses to increase their profitability and their efficiency," says Pickett. "It just so happens that the savvy, smart business approach we propose is also really good for the planet."
One of the hallmarks of RMI is that it is solutions-oriented, says Pickett. "We really try to partner with companies to figure out a more efficient way to provide the services and products they want to provide for their customers."
By working with companies on the ground with their day-to-day problems, RMI learns about the issues the companies face. "We're not preaching from an ivory tower," Pickett says. "We're out there, rolling up our sleeves on the floor of the manufacturing plants to find solutions. That informs our research and helps us be more accurate with what needs to be done."
Pickett serves as general counsel at RMI as well as executive director. She received her master's degree in land-use planning and community development from the University of Colorado and her law degree from the University of Denver. She was a founding partner in the Aspen law firm of McFlynn Pickett & Whitsitt and for several years was a presenter at the Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute in Denver on the topic of legislative land-use issues. She serves as president of the Windstar Land Conservancy.
Doig guides RMI's applied research and consulting work which applies leading-edge concepts to the real world. He has worked in a wide range of industries over the years. An advisor to the Air Force, he has helped that military branch develop an integrated strategy to improve its infrastructure energy efficiency by 30 percent in the next 10 years and increase its use of renewable energy sources to 20 percent by 2025. Doig is an adjunct faculty member at the Wharton School of Business. He holds a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley.
Hansen specializes in energy and carbon strategy and design innovation for electric utilities, industry and corporations. Her work at RMI focuses on industrial process efficiency and renewable energy supply, including wind, solar and distributed generation for electricity and biofuels for transportation. She has worked with the Alaska Center for the Environment and the Western North Carolina Alliance, where she focused on transit planning and education. Hansen earned a master's degree in environmental management from Duke University.
The Center for the Environment is hosting the event in partnership with the Catawba College Sustainable Business and Community Development Program. For more information, contact Amanda Lanier at (704) 637-4727 or firstname.lastname@example.org.