May 2, 2011 -The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced that the University of Utah is ranked third in the nation on its list of college and university “green power partners.” University of Pennsylvania and Carnegie Mellon are the only two schools ahead of the U of U in the rankings.
The U of U is being recognized for its voluntary purchase of 85 million kilowatt-hours (kwh) of green electricity (green-e) certified renewable energy and solar panel installations on campus. The EPA list of the nation’s top 20 college and university green power purchasers is available at http://www.epa.gov/greenpower/initiatives/cu_challenge.htm. The EPA estimates that the University of Utah’s green power purchase is equivalent to 31 percent of the school’s total electricity consumption.
This EPA list highlights institutions of higher education within EPA’s Green Power Partnership that have made purchases that help reduce the environmental impacts of electricity use and support the development of new renewable generation capacity nationwide. Schools can meet EPA purchase requirements using any combination of three different product options: renewable energy certificates (RECs), on-site generation and utility green power products.
“With the state of Utah having such great renewable energy resources, we are proud to help promote the development of alternative energy, particularly within our state. This is a great, cost-effective way to get more renewable energy projects financed around the country and the state,” says Associate Director of Facilities Management Orfeo Kostrencich.
Green-e certified RECs are defined by the EPA partnership as electricity generated from solar, wind, geothermal, biomass and low-impact hydro resources. These renewable energy sources are cleaner than conventional sources of electricity that produce air pollution and carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas linked to global climate change. REC purchases support the expansion and development of new renewable energy capacity.
The U’s green-e purchases were motivated by a student campaign that led to the creation of a small student fee to pay for clean energy purchases on behalf of the Associated Students of the University of Utah (ASUU). Biochemistry Professor Chris Hill expanded the campaign to allow voluntary contributions from faculty, staff, alumni and the public. The private donations collected from these groups are used to purchase additional green energy credits. More information is available at www.windpower.utah.edu
The renewable energy purchase is one of the primary considerations that the Princeton Review takes into account when determining their list of 311 Green Colleges each year. For the third year in a row, the university has been included in this guide, which is published to aid prospective students in choosing a college. In compiling their list, the Princeton Review names such things as environmentally preferable food availability on campus, free transit passes for the entire campus community, minimum LEED Silver certification for all new campus buildings and the establishment of an office of sustainability, among other criteria. The complete document is available at http://tiny.utah.edu/greencolleges2011.
Nationally, sustainability on college campuses is receiving increasing amounts of attention simply because of the volume of energy and resources used by the buildings on the nation’s more than 4,300 institutions of higher learning. Some institutions have responded by signing the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) and University of Utah President, Michael K. Young signed this climate neutrality commitment three years ago.
According to Office of Sustainability Director, Myron Willson, “We couldn’t be happier to be recognized by the EPA and included in the list of Green Colleges. Although there is much work to be done, we are constantly striving to integrate sustainability throughout the university and we have numerous invaluable partners on campus who help us continue to improve.”