University and Utility Partnerships in California Lower Emissions

NWF   |   August 28, 2008

As schools become greener, they are finding a need to reach out to their surrounding communities to manage transportation and supply networks, develop and renovate neighborhoods, and source cleaner energy. In other words, the phrase “we are not alone” has become more significant than ever.

The Higher Education Energy Partnership, a program connecting two large California schools with major state utilities, such as PG&E and SoCalGas, aims to establish a framework for long-term, sustainable energy management. The University of California and California State University, which incorporate more than 30 campuses between them, joined the partnership in 2004, and in the first two years saved more than 32 million kWh and 1.5 million therms of gas through efficiency retrofits and building initiatives. In the second two years, between 2006 and 2008, funding doubled to $34 million to help the universities move past quick wins such as compact fluorescent bulbs and updated appliances.

As the program moves forward, universities are able to plan efficiency and retrofitting projects well ahead of time by earning further incentives according to energy saved on current projects. For example, PG&E is providing a total of $800,000 for ventilation upgrades in 12 buildings at UC-Berkeley, after seeing reductions of 572,000 kilowatt hours and 83,000 therms of gas a year from lighting retrofits and a steam-capturing plant. “Prior to the creation of the partnership, the funding was only available in fits and starts,” says Aaron Klemm, CSU’s energy program manager. “With the partnership, [we are] developing a deep pipeline of projects that are ready to go one after another for the foreseeable future.”

The collaboration has resulted in other changes, such as energy audits provided by the utility companies and training for university staff in energy efficient products and methods. The utilities, in turn, rely on their university partners to drive innovation and research. As Michael Siminovitch, director of the U.C. Davis California Lighting Technology Center, says, “Our problem is knowledge barriers—people don’t know to do this.” Therefore, the Lighting Technology Center is working on integrated lighting systems that make use of sensors, reflective ceiling paint, and more efficient lights to reduce energy demands.

See More:

Energy Partnerships Target Ventilation, Lighting GreenerBuildings

California IOUs Focus on Specialized Needs of University Campuses Chartwell’s Best Practices [PDF]

Higher Education Energy Partnership

We Are Not Alone: Getting to Green


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Published: August 28, 2008