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Renewable Energy 101: Tools to move campuses toward renewable energy

As colleges across the country set big sustainability goals, Environment America releases a guide to help campuses shift to 100 percent clean energy
For Immediate Release

Today, Environment America Research and Policy Center, touting the leadership role that colleges and universities must play in the clean energy revolution, unveiled a new report detailing 11 strategies and tools that universities can use to move towards meeting 100 percent of their energy needs with renewable sources.

Renewable Energy 101: Tools for Moving your Campus to 100 Percent Clean Energy is a new series of factsheets highlighting key tools colleges can use to start building a 100 percent clean, renewable energy-powered system.

The new guide comes on the heels of last month’s commitment by the University of California System to  get all their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2025, in addition to a commitment to stop the use of fossil fuels for heat and hot water in new construction starting next year. In the past month, the University of Richmond and Boston University have also made commitments to source all of their electricity from renewables.

“As the recent report from the United Nations makes clear, we need to transition to power derived solely from clean energy sources to keep global temperatures down and avoid the worst impacts of climate change,” said Jake Taber, a Clean Energy Fellow with Environment America. “Universities have the ability and the know-how to take bold steps to shift to clean power and eliminate pollution from energy use. We hope that the 11 tools laid out in these factsheets can help.”

This year’s report, an updated version of a toolkit released last year, contains new case studies detailing technologies and strategies for moving away from fossil fuels that universities are implementing across the country. The report also includes a new factsheet on electrifying buildings, a crucial step for eliminating fossil fuels used for heating buildings.

“Dirty energy is putting our future at risk,” said Nic Riani, a student at UCLA and the Vice-Chair of CALPIRG Students’ UCLA Chapter. “We can’t waste any time in repowering our country with 100 percent renewable energy from sources like the sun and the wind. That’s why we are calling on our campuses to lead the way.”

According to a recent report by Environment America Research and Policy Center, U.S. colleges and universities serve more than 20 million students and spend more than $15 billion per year on energy. Bold commitments to clean energy in the higher education sector can drive big investments in solutions. At the same time, these influential institutions can set an example for communities and states from coast to coast, while training the scientists, engineers, policymakers and civic leaders we need to move the nation towards sustainability.

“It is inspiring to learn about the creative energy and enthusiasm for using clean energy on our college and university campuses,” said Michele Madia, director of programs and communications for Second Nature. "These fact sheets highlight many of the higher education institutions we work with through the Presidents' Climate Leadership Commitments. Students, staff, and presidents are meeting and exceeding their carbon neutrality goals through renewable energy and as a bonus, the institutions are also saving money and educating students in real-world business applications."

Environment America, in collaboration with the Student Public Interest Research Groups, has helped launch student campaigns for 100 percent renewable energy on dozens of campuses across the country.

“The University of California has been progressively expanding its portfolio of clean electricity since adopting a clean energy policy back in 2004 in response to student demand,” said Matthew St.Clair, director of sustainability at UC’s system-wide Office of the President. “Students have continued to work collaboratively with UC leadership to assure that UC is a model for climate solutions and sustainability, most recently with a push toward 100% clean electricity. We were excited to announce last month our commitment to procuring 100% clean electricity by 2025, a major step toward our goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2025.”

Clean energy and energy efficient technologies are growing fast and getting cheaper, making them more accessible. In 2017, the U.S. produced 39 times as much solar power and 5 times as much wind power as it did in 2008, while the average American now uses 8 percent less energy.

“BU’s purchase of wind power to match 100% of the University’s electricity demand is exceptional in three important ways: it’s a major step toward achieving our Climate Action Plan goals, it makes economic sense, and it creates a relationship with ENGIE that will benefit student education and faculty research for years to come,” said Dennis Carlberg, Sustainability Director with Boston University.

“Working to achieve 100 percent renewable energy on college and university campuses allows us to train young activists, future leaders and researchers to continue advocacy on clean energy off campus and in their communities,” said Taber.