University of Utah among green power competitors in EPA challenge

When it comes to sustainability, colleges and universities have some of the most aggressive and comprehensive plans in the nation, and WAPA is proud to count some of those institutions as customers. One of our customers, the University of Utah, You are leaving is putting its climate action plan to the test in the 2016-17 College and University Green Power Challenge, which encourages higher education institutions to increase their use of green power.gpchallenge

Throughout the academic year, the Green Power Partnership tracks the collegiate athletic conferences with the highest combined green power usage in the nation. The challenge, an initiative of the Environmental Protection Agency, is open to any conference in the United States. Currently, 89 schools from 34 athletic conferences are participating in the 2016-17 Challenge. The PAC 12 conference, of which UU is a part, has used 79,173,575 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of green power so far this year.

Drawing up plan
The University of Utah has been pursuing carbon neutrality since 2007 when the university president signed on to the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment You are leaving In 2010, the school set its official goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2050 as part of its first Climate Action Plan.

The comprehensive plan created the university Sustainability Office and sustainability committees to coordinate education, research and initiatives to reduce the university’s carbon emissions. The carbon commitment works hand in hand with a resilience commitment to strengthen UU’s ability to survive disruption and adapt to change. These commitments combine to form the whole of the plan’s climate commitment.

To meet its stated goals, the plan sets forth structures for guidance and implementation, and decision-making criteria for carbon reduction measures prioritized in an inverted pyramid. Avoiding and reducing emissions top the pyramid as the actions likely to have the greatest effect. Efficiency, resource replacement and offsetting fossil fuel use follow in that order. Every five years, UU will review, revise and resubmit the plan, a process that is currently underway.

Getting started
The first step on the road to carbon neutrality was gathering data on all wholly owned buildings and land area of the university and its subsidiaries. Leased facilities were not included in the accounting.

The difficulty for UU was that metering was only available at campus level when the initiative launched. “We have been working to get building-level information to better understand where we should focus our efforts,” said Myron Willson, the university’s deputy chief sustainability officer.

Data collection has led to an increased emphasis on commissioning and re-commissioning buildings and on major building system retrofits. The Sustainability Office is now looking into district-level energy planning on its health sciences campus.

In 2008, the students unanimously voted for a $2.50-per-semester student fee, the Sustainable Campus Initiative Fund, to support sustainability projects. Since then, SCIF has received proposals ranging in focus from food systems to solar energy, and has allocated more than $400,000 in grants to more than 100 projects. There is now support for turning the fund into a revolving loan program that could help to provide the initial capital needed for energy-efficiency and renewable energy projects.

Power supply plays its part
Although the plan prioritizes avoiding emissions and improving campus efficiency over using green power and offsetting fossil fuel use with renewable energy purchases, those strategies still have a place. UU installed a combined heat and power plant in 2008 that provides 6 megawatts (MW) of power. There is also about 1.5 MW of distributed solar directly on campus, and another 2 MW under contract for three projects on the university’s Research Park.

The university’s latest project brings together the entire community of students, faculty, staff, alumni, neighbors and friends for a community solar energy installation program. U Community Solar offers members the opportunity to purchase rooftop solar panels and installation for their homes at 20 to 25 percent below market rate. In return for the significant discount, participants can voluntarily donate their renewable energy credits back to the university. “So far, more than 85 percent of participants have agreed to do so, generating almost 1.8 MW in the first round,” said Willson. “The second round is nearing 1 MW of power. We register those RECs through WREGIS You are leaving [Western Renewable Energy Generation Information System].”

So far, so good
In addition to leading its conference in the Green Power Challenge, UU is making progress on its carbon neutrality goals. Its emissions have remained fairly constant since the baseline survey in 2007, but the university has experienced tremendous growth in that time frame. “Our per capita and per-square-foot energy use is down in our latest report, too,” Willson added.

The university continues to move forward with aggressive building standards for new construction and for remodels that are 40 percent better than code and a solar-ready roof initiative. Demand-side incentives from Rocky Mountain Power You are leaving, the university’s utility, help support efficiency and clean energy projects. “We are able to roll the funds over into next project,” explained Willson. “We have also taken advantage of several Blue-Sky grants to install solar PV.”

To tackle emissions from transportation, the U Drive Electric program offers U community members and Salt Lake City residents the opportunity to purchase or lease electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles at discounted prices. The collaboration between UU, Salt Lake City and Utah Clean Energy You are leaving has facilitated the sale of 92 electric and plug-in hybrid cars this year.

The University of Utah’s U Drive Electric program has facilitated the sale of 92 electric and plug-in-hybrid cars since the beginning of the school year. With almost 50 percent of Utah’s urban air pollution coming from tailpipe emissions, electric vehicles represent an important tool for improving air quality in Salt Lake City.
The University of Utah’s U Drive Electric program has facilitated the sale of 92 electric and plug-in-hybrid cars since the beginning of the school year. With almost 50 percent of Utah’s urban air pollution coming from tailpipe emissions, electric vehicles represent an important tool for improving air quality in Salt Lake City. (Photo by Sustainable Utah, Green News at the University of Utah)

Willson acknowledged that the 5-year review will bring evolution to the plan. “It is hard to know in the first years what combination of steps will bring the best result,” he said. “But we are currently working with consultants to evaluate several purchase power agreement opportunities for both on- and off-campus generation. This has helped us look at reducing peak demand, opportunities for storage, such as thermal and battery, and how to plan for future campus growth.”

WAPA wishes the University of Utah the best of luck in this year’s Green Power Challenge. But as with most energy competitions, it is not whether you win or lose; it’s how many opportunities for energy savings and load management you discover. In that, UU is already a winner.

If your college or university is interested in joining the 2016-17 Green Power Challenge, check out the steps to join Green Power Partnership for more information. To be listed, a conference must have at least two Green Power Partners and an aggregate green power purchase of at least 10 million kWh across the conference. Partner data deadlines are Jan. 4, 2017, and April 5, 2017.

Western customers play role in latest green power rankings

The latest Green Power Partnership update on renewable energy use by businesses, government facilities and educational institutions shows the importance of partners in meeting clean power goals. Western customers—and Western itself—figure prominently on the quarterly list released April 25. gpp_logo

There are now 764 Green Power Partners using renewable energy to meet 100 percent of their U.S. organizationwide electricity use. That is a lot of green kilowatt-hours (kWh)—16 billion annually—to keep the lights on and the equipment humming. The list of power providers needed to supply all that clean electricity is a long one and there are several familiar names on it.

Large, small partnerships
Apple alone purchases renewable energy from more than 30 providers, including Salt River Project, You are leaving Sacramento Municipal Utility District, You are leaving Silicon Valley PowerYou are leaving  City of Palo Alto Utilities You are leaving (CPAU) and Omaha Public Power District You are leaving (OPPD). Alpine Bank relies on Holy Cross EnergyYou are leaving San Miguel Power AssociationYou are leaving Yampa Valley Electric AssociationYou are leaving Delta-Montrose Electric Association You are leaving and La Plata Electric Association You are leaving (LPEA) among others to power its 38 branches across Colorado. Fort Collins Utilities You are leaving is among several providers that supply green power to outdoor equipment retailer REI.

On the other end of the spectrum, Silicon Valley Power meets all the electricity needs of industrial goods manufacturer Roos Instruments. Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association You are leaving is the sole green power provider to Wolf Creek Ski Area.

DIY spreading
As equipment and installation costs drop, many organizations are adding renewable energy systems on their own facilities. Omaha, Nebraska-based Morrissey Engineering supplements its green power purchase from OPPD with on-site generation. The city of Durango, Colorado, has partnered with LPEA on community solar gardens.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory generates 20 percent of its electricity on-site with solar panels. The remaining 80 percent comes from Western and private renewable energy companies.

Other notable achievements
Western customers appeared in the ranking not just as providers but as partners. The University of Utah You are leaving came in at number 86 in the overall Top 100 Green Power Partners, and was number 14 in the Top 30 colleges and universities.

Los Angeles World Airports, served by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, ranked 23rd among local government green power users. Sustainability pioneer CPAU was number 28 on that list.

Long-term power contracts, for five years or longer, play an important role in growing the renewable energy market. BD, a global medical technology company, signed a 20-year purchase power agreement with Nebraska Public Power District for more than 120,000,000 kWh of wind power.

Western customers go above and beyond to provide their consumers with the products and services they need, including cleaner, greener electricity. We look forward to seeing their names become a growing presence on future Green Power Partnership lists.

Source: EPA Green Power Partnership via Green Power News, 5/2/16

Western congratulates University of Utah’s green power leadership

The latest list of the Top 50 Green Power Partnership organizations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) includes Western customer, University of Utah (UU) at number 50. Recently featured in the Energy Services Bulletin, UU also ranks third in the Top Twenty Green Power Colleges and Universities.  

The quarterly list recognizes partner organizations voluntarily using clean, renewable electricity from resources such as solar, wind, and low-impact hydropower. UU joins such companies as Intel Corporation, Kohl’s Department Stores and Microsoft Corporation in using more than 15 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of green power annually. Combined, the Top 50 partners avoid carbon pollution equal to that created by the electricity use of more than 1.3 million American homes each year.

EPA’s Green Power Partnership works with more than 1,300 partner organizations, over half of which are small businesses and nonprofit organizations, to voluntarily use green power. Green power resources produce electricity with an environmental profile superior to conventional power technologies, and produce significantly fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

Western applauds the University of Utah for its efforts to reduce carbon pollution and move toward a new era of clean energy.

University of Utah leads pack in green power use

Solar array on rooftop
Solar panels on the V. Randall Turpin Building are just one of many sustainability measures that earned the University of Utah a spot on the Princeton Review's list of green colleges and universities. (Photo by Office of Sustainability, University of Utah)

To all the factors students and parents use to evaluate colleges—academics, sports, financial aid, even fire safety—you can now add sustainability, and place the University of Utah (UU) in Salt Lake City among the leaders.

On its January 2012 list of Top 20 Colleges and Universities for green power purchases, the EPA Green Power Partnership ranked UU third nationally, just behind University of Pennsylvania and Carnegie Mellon University. In the 2011-2012 Green Power Challenge, the university leads the second-place PAC-12 Conference, purchasing more than 98 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of wind power.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that UU green power purchases are equivalent to more than 36 percent of its energy use. “Green power purchases allow us to reduce our footprint even further in a cost effective way,” said UU sustainability coordinator Jen Colby. “It’s an honor to be in the top five nationally.”

Logistics of the purchase
UU is lowering its carbon footprint by buying renewable energy certificates (RECs) from wind farms through REC marketer 3Degrees. “We looked at all the options and wind power was the most affordable,” explained Ashley Patterson, outreach coordinator for UU’s Office of Sustainability.

The university also subscribes to Rocky Mountain Power’s Blue Sky Renewable Energy program at the “visionary” level.

The purchase of Green-e certified RECs is funded by fees and donations the university collects through various renewable energy campaigns. UU retains formal ownership of the offsets, making the donations from non-students tax deductible. 

Students started it
As often happens on college campuses across the country, students set UU on the path toward renewable energy leadership. In 2005, the Associated Students of the University of Utah (ASUU) launched a campaign to create a small student fee to pay for clean energy purchases. All of UU’s 32,000 students now pay $1.00 “green” fee to support the purchase of renewable energy.

About a year after the ASUU renewable energy campaign started, Dr. Chris Hill of the biochemistry department started a similar campaign for the staff and faculty. Currently, that renewable energy campaign has about 200 donors. Other UU departments, programs and annual events followed with their own campaigns to support renewable energy and achieve climate neutrality. There are now more than 40 renewable energy campaigns on campus that accept voluntary contributions from faculty, staff, alumni and the public.

The large scale of the program helps keep the price of the RECs down to $3 per megawatt-hour (MWh). The typical U.S. household with the average annual use of 10 MWh, can offset its entire electricity consumption for $30 premium per year—less than a 5-percent increase in a typical Utah residential electricity bill.

Other sustainability measures
Of course, no form of energy is so affordable that a large institution can afford to waste it, which is why UU has an Energy Management Office. The office targets three areas to reduce energy consumption: building performance, energy conservation and behavioral initiatives.

Tracking utility data, re-commissioning building systems, implementing retrofit projects and leveraging utility incentives to fund improvements are all part of UU’s energy management strategy. Efficiency upgrade projects include retrofitting T12 lighting, adding automated lighting controls, implementing IT software and upgrading HVAC ducting to improve distribution. The energy savings from these improvements accumulated between July 2007 and January 2012 total 183,931,251 kilowatt-hours, 593,795 decatherms of natural gas, 35,392,000 pounds of steam and 1,363,531 million British thermal units.

Campus-wide energy-efficiency projects are an important source of energy savings, too. The Energy Office has and assisted with grant applications for photovoltaic installations. Providing design assistance to build efficiency into new facilities, and working with power providers to obtain rebates and incentives are also part of UU’s energy conservation strategy.

Efficient buildings and systems work best if occupants understand and use the features, so the Energy Office also has an outreach program to build energy awareness. Facilities managers receive training in the proper operation of system controls. A behavioral specialist is available to consult with “green teams” around campus to educate students, faculty and staff about simple energy-saving habits and measures.

As important as energy use is, UU recognizes that there is still more to creating a “green” university. The UU Office of Sustainability also supports recycling efforts, water conservation, local and organic dining options, low-impact transportation and more. Students can also enroll in sustainability-related courses and programs, and explore new ideas and technologies at the Sustainability Research Center. The Student Campus Initiative Fund, another student-led initiative, collects a $2.50-per-semester student fee to fund grants for students to put their energy-efficiency and conservation ideas into action on campus and in the community.    

Preparing for the future
These efforts, along with the renewable energy purchase, have landed UU on the Princeton Review’s list of 311 Green Colleges for three years in a row. The national guide is published to aid prospective students in choosing a college.

The reason the Princeton Review includes sustainability in its evaluation goes beyond mere idealism. Students understand that renewable energy offers a career path, as demonstrated by the two undergraduates who started the wind power campaign. One is now working for Utah Clean Energy, and the other is associate director of the California Geothermal Energy Collaborative at the UC Davis Energy Institute.

A great basketball team may still attract more students than a strong “green” program, but students want to prepare for the future, too. With its forward-looking sustainability program and renewable energy purchases, University of Utah is schooling the competition in that game.