Forum brings together innovators to develop energy solutions for Appalachia

The forum was held in Lexington and hosted by the University of Kentucky’s Center for Applied Energy Research and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Photo by Jeremy Blackburn, Research Communications.
Picture are forum attendees from UK CAER. Photo by Jeremy Blackburn, Research Communications.
Bob Jewell, UK CAER associate director, spoke on a panel at the 2024 Appalachian Carbon Forum. Photo by Jeremy Blackburn, Research Communications.
Cabinet Secretary Rebecca Goodman from the Kentucky Office of Energy and Environment spoke at the forum. Photo by Jeremy Blackburn, Research Communications.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 28, 2024) — Dozens of industry leaders and innovators attended the 2024 Appalachian Carbon Forum to work together to identify and develop clean energy transition solutions for the Appalachia region.

The forum was held in Lexington and hosted by the University of Kentucky’s Center for Applied Energy Research (CAER) and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).

“The Appalachian Carbon Forum is a way for researchers and stakeholders to work together to make sure communities in this region thrive and benefit as the nation pivots to a clean energy future,” said ORNL’s Edgar Lara-Curzio, co-chair of the forum who also leads energy transition programs and decarbonization research at the lab.

The two-day forum featured discussions on the representative needs, challenges and opportunities unique to Appalachia. Representatives from local communities, private industry, national laboratories, academia and government located along the Appalachian Mountains participated.

“In the journey toward a sustainable future, research serves as a guiding light. We also have a great responsibility to listen to our community leaders and partner with communities to ensure our research and innovation is meaningful to Kentuckians. I applaud the UK Center for Applied Energy Research for its role in hosting this important Commonwealth conversation,” said Lisa Cassis, Ph.D., UK vice president for research. UK Research was a forum sponsor.

The sessions focused on topics such as industrial decarbonization, nuclear power, sustainable utilization of resources and the resiliency in Appalachia.

Louie Krak, energy infrastructure coordinator at the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, was the plenary speaker for the session focused on industrial decarbonization.

Krak and panelists discussed the industry barriers and opportunities as they develop strategies and goals to transition to clean energy solutions and reduce carbon emissions. The group also talked about potential impacts to job creation and other economic and environmental benefits to the region.

The conversation on nuclear power was led by Glenn Davis, director of the Virginia Department of Energy. The talk centered on regional companies’ unique challenges to meet the needs and increasing demands of customers while working to hit net-zero target goals.

Panelists shared their approaches, best practices and lessons learned from their decarbonization efforts with a focus on nuclear power generation in Appalachia.

Greg Meade, Cumberland Forest project manager with The Nature Conservancy, presented on sustainable utilization of Appalachia resources, from timber to minerals. The discussion also included how to extract and use natural resources and how that impacts everything from power generation to industrial manufacturing.

The panel also discussed efforts to reduce carbon emissions and waste in these sectors, while developing ways to positively impact the environment and communities they serve and operate in.

Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet Secretary Rebecca Goodman was the plenary speaker for the session focused on resiliency in Appalachia after multiple climate impacts, from floods to wildfires.

Panelists included a climate scientist at ORNL about the latest modeling on the risk of weather-related events in the region, state and local officials in Kentucky about the response to the 2022 flood in Kentucky, and community perspectives from West Virginia and Virginia about disaster preparedness and recovery strategies, especially in socially vulnerable communities.

Crystal E. Wilkinson, a previous Kentucky poet laureate and the Bush-Holbrook Endowed Chair of English in the Department of English in the College of Arts and Sciences, read from her latest book, “Praisesong for the Kitchen Ghosts: Stories and Recipes from Five Generations of Black Country Cooks.”

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.