Guest Post: Ball State Benefits from New Chevrolet Initiative

Feb 12, 2014 2:30 PM ET


By Robert J. Koester, Professor of Architecture and Chair, Ball State University Council on the Environment

More and more college campuses are pledging to reduce their carbon emissions and become climate neutral. Ball State University is one of 675 colleges and universities that have made that commitment.

Until now, it’s been a challenge to make significant progress because of funding and investment.

Some universities have access to funding lines through their utility districts. Some look to named donors to support large-scale initiatives. And, of course, administrations continue to tease-out funding within their operational budgets under the banner of repair and rehabilitation.  Bottom line: Most of our universities lack the financial resources to fully realize their energy and climate goals.

Enter Chevrolet.

Chevy now has opened a new window of opportunity for us.  Their development of a methodology enables campuses to turn their greenhouse gas reductions into carbon credits that universities can then sell. This is the first time colleges can earn money for their clean energy leadership performance and provides opportunity for reinvestment to more quickly realize our goals.

Historically, colleges bought carbon credits from other organizations to offset their carbon emissions. This now enables them to bring in funding for the energy efficiency projects they are already doing—delivering a positive impact back to their local community.

At Ball State we are using the Chevy acquisition of carbon credits to broaden the impact of our installation of the largest geothermal system of its kind in the nation. This includes conducting a three-year Carbon Market Study of our experience with the new performance methodology, engaging students and faculty in elements of research and education about geothermal technology, and driving even deeper carbon reduction impacts across campus.

And, rather than acquire these carbon reduction credits as claims against the environmental emissions of its own factories, assembly plants or even the cars themselves, Chevrolet has committed to retiring these carbon reductions on behalf of the environment. They are bringing like-minded people together who are employing ingenious ways to reduce environmental impact.

Colleges can receive funding for their LEED-certified building carbon reductions or campus wide carbon mitigation. We join Valencia College in Orlando as a pilot project to this Chevrolet initiative. The methodology is focused on ensuring that qualifying campuses’ verifiable greenhouse gas performance falls into the upper percentiles of college and university reductions nationwide. These are the people who are really pushing the envelope and trying innovative approaches to bring their carbon load down.

This is a unique opportunity for universities to choose a scale at which to enter the carbon market—building by building or at the scale of whole-campus intervention.

So how do campuses use these new funds? Chevrolet leaves it up to us. We can apply the money to a specific immediate task needed to reduce energy-based GHG emissions or it can become the platform to establish a green revolving fund so the leverage of reductions can accrue.

It’s amazing that a car company like Chevrolet is taking such leadership in engaging other people who share a commitment to securing a cleaner energy future.