Conservation projects lower emissions

Despite rising utilities costs, the College has lowered its greenhouse gas emissions by 23 percent since 2006 as a result of numerous energy conservation projects. Most of these projects result from collaboration between Facilities and the Zilkha Center for Environmental Studies in an effort to moderate on-campus use of electricity and reduce the College’s carbon footprint.

Emissions for the last fiscal year beginning in July 2007 were 21,848 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents, compared with 22,036 the previous fiscal year. At their peak in 2005, emissions were as high as 30,498 metric tons.

The College calculates emissions every year using a calculator provided by the non-profit organization Clean Air, Cool Planet. All greenhouse gas emissions, for example methane or nitrous oxide, are converted to carbon dioxide equivalents for this calculation.

“The [energy conservation] projects included the installation of more efficient equipment and controls for lighting, heating, ventilating and air-conditioning,” said Jose Fierro, director of Facility Operations. “Electricity is a major component of our utilities and we are doing well managing its use.”
Stephanie Boyd, acting director of the Zilkha Center for Environmental Studies, cited lights controlled by occupancy sensors and photocells, which turn lights off when there is sufficient daylight, as the greatest newly installed contributors to energy efficiency on campus. To further benefit from this technology, the building management system is being updated so that more building controls can be monitored from a central base.

Several of the projects were first implemented last year in Morley Science Center with promising results. “To date, 300,000 kilowatts of energy have been saved in Morley Science Center, and we’re
expecting to do more,” Boyd said.

In addition to these and other on-campus projects, the College has switched to “cleaner electricity,” according to Boyd, by changing its electricity provider. The College now also uses more natural gas or original oil in its heating plants.

This year, the College’s efforts to conserve energy and reduce costs have been more successful than in years past. “We’ve always been trying to complete some projects whose purpose was energy conservation, but now we have significant commitment from the administration and a significant increase in the budget to implement energy savings projects,” Boyd said.

According to Fierro, this renewed commitment is part of a broader scheme. “[The College] is engaged in an ambitious energy conservation program that extends for several years into the future,” he said, adding that the combined resources within the Zilkha Center, Facilities and Dining Services were sufficient “to manage the procurement and conservation components of our comprehensive initiatives.”
Despite such support and commitment, Boyd noted that “the cost of utilities is going up faster than we can keep up with.”

“Some [other colleges] are more interested than others in reducing greenhouse gas emissions but may not have the resources to dedicate to plant improvements,” Boyd said. “The high cost of utilities is making all of us more concerned about energy conservation.”

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