Colleges Get Chevy Support for Clean Energy Efforts

Nov 18, 2014 2:00 PM ET

Imagine an entire college campus’ heating and cooling powered by the thermal storage of the Earth. Or residence halls peppered with solar arrays and daylit spaces.

Universities around the country are aggressively reducing their carbon footprint and going above and beyond to combat climate change.

But these carbon-reducing projects require a big investment. Thanks to a new pathway pioneered by Chevy and several climate experts, colleges now have another revenue source to get these projects to see the light of day.

For the first time, colleges can access funding from the U.S. carbon market to fuel their large-scale energy efficiency efforts toward even greater progress through a new carbon credit methodology.

Chevrolet also is purchasing 11 colleges campuses’ energy efficiency-based carbon reductions – an investment of up to $5 million – and retiring them to benefit the climate. This means these carbon credits will never be used to offset Chevrolet vehicles or operations.

It’s all part of Chevy’s voluntary initiative to reduce 8 million metric tons of carbon from being emitted. To put that number into perspective, that’s the equivalent of Boston University reducing its emissions to zero for 65 years.

As we inch closer toward meeting that commitment, we wanted to help open the door for other companies to contribute to such clean energy projects. This way, campuses can continue to receive funding from companies’ carbon purchases long after we complete our carbon-reduction initiative next year.

The revenue from carbon credits help colleges reinvest in even more clean energy technologies so that they move closer to their goals — from incremental reductions all the way to carbon neutral commitments — more quickly.

As a bonus, utility bills decrease and students learn how they too can help lead a clean energy future. Take Southern Oregon University students, for example. They spearheaded the securing of this Chevy funding and are running an energy conservation campaign to get students involved in campus conservation efforts. Boston University student interns helped lead their campus through its carbon credit certification process, and convened a broader social media conversation on the importance of clean energy.

See how these colleges around the nation are taking bold steps to reduce their carbon load on the atmosphere, and join the conversation with students, university and climate leaders on the importance of clean energy via #CleanEnergyU.

  • Ball State University is creating the nation’s largest ground-source, closed-loop district geothermal energy system to provide heating and cooling for all 47 campus buildings. The switch cuts its carbon footprint by nearly half.
  • Portland State University committed to achieve net-zero emissions from campus operations by 2040, and champions climate change action beyond its own borders.
  • Spelman College aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions 100 percent by 2056 while inspiring its students to take action toward a cleaner energy future.
  • University of Illinois at Chicago’s LEED-Gold Douglas Hall features 245 solar panels, geothermal heating, daylighting, and occupancy detectors. It set a precedent for high-performing LEED buildings to earn carbon credit funding.
  • University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point switched from coal to natural gas at its heating plant and may use its new funds to power a wind turbine demonstration.
  • Boston University met its 25 percent greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal six years early, and will use Chevy funds to build its Sustainability Revolving Loan Fund to fuel future sustainability projects.
  • Rochester Institute of Technology hopes to be carbon neutral by 2030. Its business incubator expands start-ups’ clean energy solutions across the country, and Chevy funding will accelerate further sustainability innovation.
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has reduced its dependence on coal, while retro-commissioning 50 buildings to improve heating and cooling. The university will match Chevy funds to drive further progress toward reducing its greenhouse gas emissions 100 percent by 2050.
  • Valencia College is implementing lighting retrofits, chiller plant and HVAC upgrades, using Chevy funding to drive additional efficiency projects.
  • Grand Valley State University’s energy-efficient practices are central to the campus culture. The millions of dollars saved from energy efficiency improvements and Chevy funds allow it to reinvest in the university.
  • Southern Oregon University is striving to reach its carbon neutral goal by 2050 by investing in green buildings, such as its LEED Gold Raider Village featuring daylit common spaces and 153 kilowatts of solar photovoltaics.