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Panelists to discuss Iowa energy use today

BY MADISON BENNETT | MARCH 25, 2011 7:20 AM

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When it comes to energy conservation, Iowa is a hot-bed of potential, experts say.

And with that potential, comes great responsibility.

“I always think we should all be obligated to improve energy conservation,” said Director of the University of Iowa Office of Sustainability Liz Christiansen. “And I think we’ve got the tools in Iowa to do that.”

That’s why, “Green Energy for the Future” — the third event hosted by the Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce as part of its Agribusiness/Bioscience Breakfast Series — will focus on motivating local businesses to reduce energy waste and become more sustainable. The event is today at 7:30 a.m. at Hills Bank, 1009 Second St., Coralville.

Christiansen will be one of four panelists who will each have seven to 10 minutes to talk. They will discuss slightly different topics in line with their expertise, such as business or forms of energy.

Panelists agree the objective of the discussion is to educate the general public.

“We’ll be providing perspective for them on renewable energy and how we’re going to become more sustainable in the community,” said Steve Fugate, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Association.

Mike Ott, associate director of the Iowa Biotechnology Association, will discuss different forms of renewable energy and a new generation of technology.

“My whole focus is looking toward utilizing state’s resources in a more sustainable way,” he said.

Fugate plans to address the difficulties of going green. Sometimes, the politics of climate change and conservation efforts impedes efforts to implement energy-efficient practices, he said.

He commended the UI’s sustainability plan for taking a practical approach.

“It seems like it’s realistic and achievable,” he said. “And they seem to be motivated to do it.”

With the announcement of the 2020 sustainability plan last fall, the UI has been working on accomplishing two energy-related goals. The first is to possess 40 percent renewable energies in the UI energy portfolio. The second is to become a negative energy user, the goal of using the same or less energy than the UI does now by 2020.

Energy use at the UI has decreased by about 8 percent over about the last three years, Christiansen said.

“Setting the goals and working effectively toward them is great to see,” Fugate said.

Sheila Samuelson, an expert in green business strategy and founder of Bright Green Strategy, said businesses should address efficiency first.

Negotiating with landlords for updated light fixtures and using free power management software are two key steps toward being more efficient in the workplace.

In offices and on the UI campus, she said, saving energy can be as easy as making sure computers turn off after a certain period of inactivity.

“It’s as simple as turning on a setting that’s already there,” she said. “If you think about the university, how many [computers] that is, that’s really going to add up.”


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