Two recent national reports have recognized the University of Vermont’s leadership among institutions of higher education in the category of sustainable energy use and sources. One comes from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), the organization that coordinates the STARS (Sustainability Tracking Assessment & Rating System) rankings. The other comes from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Green Power Partnership.
On August 22, AASHE released the 2018 Sustainability Campus Index (SCI), recognizing the University of Vermont (UVM) among the top ten performers in the Energy category for achievements in energy reduction and development and use of clean, renewable energy sources. The 2018 SCI report draws from data submitted through STARS by hundreds of colleges and universities from across North America and the world.
The Energy section of UVM’s 2017 STARS submission reports that between 2007 and 2015 the UVM campus building space increased by 7% while total energy use for electricity, heating and cooling dropped 12%. Electricity and thermal energy sources also became cleaner between 2007 and 2015, as UVM ceased using #6 fuel oil for heating, converting to #2 oil as a backup fuel and using natural gas for most of its heating fuel. Cooling became more efficient in a shift away from individual chilling units toward centralized chilling.
On July 23, the Green Power Partnership program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency placed the University of Vermont 24th on itsTop 30 College & University list based on the total quantity of certified renewable electricity it used. The Green Power Partnership (GPP) is a voluntary program that encourages organizations to use “green power” as a way to reduce the environmental impacts associated with electricity use. The EPA website describes “green power” as “zero-emissions electricity that is certified as being generated from environmentally preferable renewable resources, such as wind, solar, geothermal, eligible biogas, biomass, and low-impact hydro.”
UVM is one of ten institutions on the GPP list buying 99% or more of their power using certified “green power” sources. According to Gioia Thompson, Director of UVM’s Office of Sustainability, “the University of Vermont has generated its own power (1%) or purchased certified “green power”(99%) for all of its buildings since 2015, in conformance with its 2010 Climate Action Plan and commitment to reducing greenhouse gases.”
There are three ways UVM buildings are powered.
- The Aiken Center, the LEED Platinum-certified home of the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, uses the “green power” generated by nearby solar panels for about 40 percent of its electricity.
- The Extension Service offices across the state are buying local “Cow Power” through the local power company, Green Mountain Power. Cow Power, Thompson explains, comes from “anaerobic digesters on Vermont farms that not only produce renewable power but also help control water pollution, reduce odors, and reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases.”
- The rest of UVM buildings are buying certified wind power from the Midwest. The benefit, Thompson explains, is “this wind power can displace high-carbon sources in one of the nation’s dirtier electric grids, an area which also happens to be a major source of air pollution in Vermont due to our prevailing winds.”
“These recent reports from AASHE and the EPA are recognizing both UVM’s strong commitments to energy and climate action, and the hard work of the many people at UVM—students, faculty, staff, and leaders—who embody that commitment and make UVM’s achievements possible,” said Thompson. “It takes sustained leadership and dedication over time to achieve the overall energy and carbon reductions that UVM has seen.”
The 2018 Sustainable Campus Index report recognized top-performing colleges and universities in a total of 17 sustainability impact areas relating to academics, engagement, operations and administration. Vermont institutions recognized in the report for achievements in categories such as curriculum, air and climate, energy, food and dining include Sterling College, Middlebury College, Green Mountain College and UVM. The SCI report draws from STARS reports that are available online at stars.aashe.org. The University’s 2017 STARS submission resulted in a Gold rating, as did UVM’s first submission in 2014
The Green Power Partnerhip's Top 30 list represents the largest green power users among participating higher education institutions participating. The Partnership has more than 1,400 member organizations voluntarily using more than 40 billion kilowatt-hours of green power annually. Partners include a variety of leading organizations including Fortune 500®companies; small- and medium-sized businesses; local, state, and federal governments; and colleges and universities. The combined green power use of these organizations amounts to more than 3 billion kilowatt-hours of green power annually, equivalent to the total annual electricity use of more than 280,000 average American homes.