As part of a commitment to reduce campus emissions, as outlined in the recent Energy Action Plan, UMD is committed to reduce its emissions 25% from 2007 levels by 2020, and become a carbon neutral institution by 2050.
Electricity and energy use account for 90% of UMD's carbon footprint, making energy both an environmental and economic concern. Reducing energy use is a top priority in making our campus more sustainable, yet with growing energy needs at a busy research university, this can be a complicated undertaking. In Facilities Management, this is an ongoing challenge that has been on the forefront for decades; in fact, even with a 40% increase in the size of our campus, efficiencies have helped us avoid adding extra boilers in our heating plant.
UMD buildings are heated by a central natural gas-fired heating plant with three main boilers. Although natural gas is relatively clean-burning, it is also a non-renewable fossil fuel that contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. The electricity we purchase comes from Minnesota Power, and although they are committed to reducing emissions, the fuel mix is still approximately 90% coal.
How does reducing energy use and looking for clean energy sources help our campus?
Efforts on behalf of the University and Facilities Management to reduce our energy usage include building energy efficient buildings and sensible climate control.
From 2005 to 2010, electricity bills at UMD increased 50%. Reducing these costs and emissions via energy efficiently is a top priority at UMD. Facilities Management staff have replaced lighting, installed occupancy sensors, light-detection systems, and upgraded heating, cooling, and ventilation systems. These adjustments save UMD money in energy costs annually, without impacting campus comfort. Efficiency is about using less to get the same result.
Energy efficiency work has brought in $492,184 in rebates from Minnesota Power since 2002, in addition to the reduction in energy use. Recently, $100,000 worth of rebate money was set aside by Facilities Management to establish a Green Revolving Fund. The Green Revolving Fund provides capital for future energy saving projects. Savings from these projects, in addition to Minnesota Power rebates, are deposited into the fund for future projects.
The first program funded through the Green Fund is the Refrigerator Exchange Program. Faculty and staff at UMD can apply to upgrade old, inefficient department refrigerators and the Green Fund will cover up to half of the cost of replacement. From the replacement of the initial 13 refrigerators exchanged through the program, UMD is expected to save nearly $1,000 annually, with savings reinvested to the Green Fund and a payback of about six years.
Repair, rehabilitation, and retrofitting of campus buildings is an important part of UMD sustainability. Our goal is to optimize operation of buildings and identify energy conservation opportunities. This includes:
Several buildings on UMD campus have been built, or extensively upgraded, to operate efficiently.
Although these may seem like simple tasks, working together we can make a difference. Contribute your ideas at the UMD Sustainability Blog.