Washington, DC – America’s colleges and universities are positioned to lead the transition to 100 percent renewable energy, according to a report released today by Environment America Research & Policy Center with student group leaders at Georgetown University. 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 Anna Hofmann, Clean Energy Fellow with Environment America. “In making a bold and necessary commitment to 100 percent renewable energy, Georgetown can continue its climate leadership here in our nation’s capital.”
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.
"Georgetown University, here in the nation's capital, can teach a whole lot more than just its students by making its campus 100 percent renewable,” said S. David Freeman, a long-time utility executive at Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the New York Power Authority and the Tennessee Valley Authority. “The tourists, and even the President and Congress, can see that it can be done."
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.
“One of Georgetown University’s guiding principles is giving its students the tools and guidance to be women and men for others,” said Gaia Mattiace, student president of Georgetown Renewable Energy and Environmental Network. “In my time here as a student I have found that this goal inevitably also includes the active pursuit of being women and men for the environment. Promoting a 100% renewable energy future here at Georgetown is an essential part of this aim, not only because it mitigates our impact on climate change, which affects both our natural environment and the well-being of communities around the globe, but also since it educates students about the possibility of bringing renewable energy into their own lives and their own workplaces once they graduate.”
The report highlights progress Georgetown has already made to reduce its climate impact by procuring green power credits equivalent to 129 percent of its electricity use in 2016, implementing efficiency measures, and installing on-site solar. Students collaborated with faculty members to bring solar panels to six student townhouses in 2013 and groups like Georgetown Renewable Energy and Environmental Network continue to advocate for clean energy initiatives on campus. Due to these efforts, the EPA named Georgetown a Green Power Partner in 2013.
"I’m proud that Georgetown has been an EPA Green Power Partner,” said Sarah Stoll, Georgetown Environment Initiative professor. “The production of carbon dioxide, which is leading to climate change, is the most important security threat that faces our country, and will affect the lives of our children. I hope that Georgetown will continue its efforts by making a commitment to 100% renewable energy and encouraging direct generation on campus by replacing the solar panels on Bunn Intercultural Center."
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 Hofmann. “Working with Georgetown 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.”