Students protest energy transition plan
A giant 18-foot-tall inflatable hand holding an inhaler swayed in the wind next to the rock on Farm Lane on Wednesday afternoon while members of MSU Beyond Coal rallied against the Energy Transition Plan by singing songs, sharing stories and holding up 10-foot-tall wooden sunflowers.
The demonstration was part of a student protest against MSU’s Energy Transition Plan, which will be voted on by the Board of Trustees on Friday and was meant to highlight the negative health effects created by the MSU Power Plant.
The plan highlights MSU’s mission to reach 100 percent renewable energy, with a goal of the campus being powered by 40 percent renewable energy by 2030.
Currently, MSU is powered by less than 2 percent renewable energy, according to the plan. The plan calls for investment in research for renewable energy sources, implementation of more aggressive building energy standards and maximizing the use of alternative, cleaner fuels — subject to availability, technical and regulatory constraints.
Sarah Herbst, a recent MSU alumna who was on the Energy Transition Steering Committee, said when she worked with other members to create the plan, one of her main concerns was making sure the cost of living did not become too high for students on campus.
Because the state has cut funding for MSU in recent years, members of the committee were conscious of MSU’s economic situation, which influenced many of their policies, she said.
But English senior and president of MSU Beyond Coal Talya Tavor, who helped lead Wednesday’s protest, said the plan is not aggressive enough and said she wants MSU to be a leader for other universities in regards to renewable energy initiatives.
Tavor, who suffers from asthma, said she feels the university should set a date to close the power plant, instead of the broad timeline she has seen in the Energy Transition Plan.
About a month ago, Tavor said she met with President Lou Anna K. Simon about her idea to create a student-led group who would write a new energy transition plan to get to 100 percent renewable energy with a more detailed timeline. She said Simon endorsed the group, and the students in it will be pushing forward to write a plan, regardless of the board’s decision on Friday.
MSU Trustee Brian Breslin said the plan is a step in the right direction for MSU, and he plans to vote in support of the plan at the board meeting on Friday.
Breslin said although the plan does not state when the university will be powered by 100 percent renewable energy, he sees this lack of specificity as a strength of the plan because the future of the economy and energy sources is so unpredictable.
“I think everyone involved in it recognizes that it is not perfect, but it does address important aspects to keeping the university functioning to get it where it needs to be in the future,” he said.