Report: Colleges and Universities Can Lead America’s Shift to 100 Percent Renewable Energy

Media Contacts

Environment California Research & Policy Center

Los Angeles, CA – America’s colleges and universities are positioned to lead the transition to 100 percent renewable energy, according to a report released today by UCLA CALPIRG Students. The report stresses that a complete shift to clean, renewable energy is the best way for colleges and universities to achieve their carbon reduction goals and highlights schools across the country that are taking measures to make the transition to renewable energy.

“Colleges and universities across the country are situated to lead the charge in the transition to a 100 percent clean energy future”, said Kay Litwin with UCLA CALPIRG Students. “In making a bold and necessary commitment to 100 percent renewable energy, UCLA can continue its climate leadership here in California.”

The amount of energy we use pales in comparison to America’s renewable energy potential. According to the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, we could power the nation 100 times over with existing solar potential and 10 times over with available wind resources.  At the same time, there is a tremendous opportunity to reduce energy consumption through energy conservation and efficiency measures. 

According to the report, Renewable Energy 100: The Course to a Carbon-Free Campus, transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy is the best way for the hundreds of universities that have made commitments to carbon neutrality by 2050 to achieve their goals.  The report cites a number of factors that make institutions of higher education well-suited to lead America’s efforts:

  • They are significant energy consumers, serving more than 20 million students;
  • College and university campuses often have physical attributes that make them good locations for hosting clean energy projects. Many have space on rooftops, in parking lots, and on marginal land for hosting solar panels, wind turbines, and other clean energy technologies;
  • They can save money and hedge against volatile fossil fuel costs by investing in clean energy;
  • They are leaders of innovation and training;

Adopting clean energy appeals to prospective students and meets the desires of current students and faculty.

The UCLA community has already done much to lead the way, from increasing energy efficiency measures on campus to installing solar hot water heating systems, to conducting groundbreaking research on Los Angeles’ solar power potential to developing pioneering smart grid technologies, to setting an aggressive goal to achieve a carbon neutrality by 2025.

Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz said, “As a lifelong Bruin, I’m proud UCLA continues to lead the way with CalPIRG on aggressive climate action.  As a City Councilmember facing an already climate-changed future for the city he loves, I am proud that Los Angeles has taken aim at going 100% renewable and I will continue to push us hard to get there sooner than expected, regardless of what insanity comes at us from DC.”

As state leaders consider a 100 percent renewable energy future, California cities are already leading the way. San Diego has committed to achieving 100 percent renewable energy by 2035. Los Angeles is studying the best means for achieving 100 percent clean energy. Last month, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said in his State of the City Address that he will work to make San Jose “the first major U.S. city to draw 100% of our electricity from renewable sources within the next decade.”

“Now is the time for California to go big on clean energy,” said Michelle Kinman, clean energy advocate with Environment California Research & Policy Center. “Getting to 100 percent renewable energy is 100 percent possible and universities such as UCLA can lead the way.”

By setting ambitious clean energy goals, colleges and universities can bolster learning and research, drive innovation, attract new students, and save money – all while setting an example for the nation and reducing their own environmental impact.

“A shift to 100 percent renewable energy is completely necessary,” said Litwin. “Working with UCLA­ to achieve 100 percent renewable energy allows us to train young activists, future leaders and researchers to continue advocacy on clean energy off campus and in their communities.”