The Daily Californian Online

UC Energy Sustainability Programs Set to Expand

By Aaida Samad
Contributing Writer
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Category: News > University > Higher Education

Sustainability has long been an area of the UC system's concern. This display panel in Wurster Hall suggests ways in which individuals can reduce personal energy consumption.

A University of California systemwide energy program will see an expansion in energy-saving projects after the UC Board of Regents voted last Tuesday to increase the program's budget by more than $15 million.

The increased budget will enable UC Davis and the UC San Francisco Medical Center to complete more energy projects under the university's 2010-2012 Statewide Energy Partnership Program - a collaboration between the UC and some California utility companies to reduce utilities costs while increasing energy efficiency and sustainability. The entire initiative is expected to save the UC $17.8 million over the next three years while advancing the university's goals for "environmental stewardship."

Approved by the regents in March 2009, the program was implemented in January 2010 and has a total project budget of more than $262 million. As part of the program, campuses identify projects where they can achieve greater efficiency and sustainability, borrow money to complete changes and receive incentive awards from utilities companies if certain levels of efficiency are met, according to Patrick Lenz, UC vice president for budget.

"These are the kinds of changes campuses unfortunately have to put off year after year due to lack of funding," Lenz said. "The ultimate goal is to reduce overall university energy consumption and to be more green."

Only one year into the three-year program, UC campuses have applied for $79.1 million of authorized funding for more than 300 projects. Completion of these projects will save 103.8 million kilowatt-hours of electricity and 8.6 million therms of natural gas - more than half the savings goal for the program, according to an action item from the meeting.

Lenz said the program has achieved "significant energy and cost savings," with net energy savings of about $10 million to date - more than half of the three-year goal of $17.8 million.

The project will advance the university's efforts to reduce energy use by 2014 to levels 10 percent below energy levels in the year 2000 and to become climate neutral after 2020, a goal laid out in the university's Policy on Sustainable Practices.

According to Christine Shaff, communications director for the UC Berkeley Department of Facilities Services, last year the campus completed 14 projects under the program and about 39 projects are under way for this year. Projects include monitoring base commissioning and upgrading lighting and heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.

The total cost of the campus projects over the three years is $24 million, with $16 million scheduled to be financed through borrowing and $8 million in incentives awarded by the utilities companies, Shaff said. The campus anticipates approximately $4 million in annual savings from the changes, she added.

"It's all about little efforts like these," Shaff said. "Each change makes a big difference. It's about saving energy, reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and saving money, too. It's a win, win and win situation."

While programs like these are beneficial to the campus and the environment, they are not publicized well enough to the campus community, said Jason Teh, a UC Berkeley sophomore and civil and environmental engineering major.

"Sustainability is important in preserving our future," Teh said. "Programs like these are great, but the campus should do more to explain what they've been doing ... so people can follow in their footsteps to help them to achieve this important goal."

Nina Brown of The Daily Californian contributed to this report.

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