Colby-Sawyer College Signs Contract for Green Energy as Part of Climate Action Plan to Create a Sustainable Campus
Colby-Sawyer College announces a new utilities package that features a three-year electricity contract combined with an additional component that will power the college with renewable energy sources and reduce the college's carbon emissions by 43 percent.
The contracts, which begin Aug. 1, include the purchase of renewable energy certificates (RECs), a positive, short-term solution that allows Colby-Sawyer to make significant progress toward its long-term goal of becoming a carbon-neutral campus by 2050, according to President Tom Galligan. Both deals were brokered by World Energy Solutions, Inc. of Worcester, Mass.
The college is extremely excited about this new contract because it helps us make huge positive strides in our goal to reduce our carbon footprint and live more sustainably, says President Galligan. We dream about someday creating our own renewable energy right here on campus and this contract is a significant step toward our long-term goals.
The electricity contract is based on a winning bid from TransCanada that beat out others made in an online auction held at Colby-Sawyer. Notably, the electricity bid was less than the college's present contracted annual price for electricity, representing an annual savings of $4,500. With electricity rates expected to rise, the college hoped to lock in rates that were both reasonable and environmentally responsible through the online auction. There's value in being able to budget based on a sure thing, says Colby-Sawyer Treasurer Doug Lyon. The electricity purchased from TransCanada was not renewable, which is why the college also purchased renewable energy certificates.
At present there is a limited green power network available in New Hampshire and New England. The college's new electricity arrangement is considered green because of the annual purchase of 3,400 Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) over the World Green Exchange®. The RECs were obtained from Virginia-based Got Green Energy. The $10,000 annual cost for the RECs, when combined with the cost savings for electricity, yields an annual net increase of just $5,900 to purchase renewable energy for the campus.
Got Green Energy is a Green-e certified provider. The most reliable renewable energy certification organization in the United States, Green-e certifies that products meet environmental and consumer protection standards, developed in conjunction with environmental, energy and policy organizations.
RECs, according to Got Green Energy, can be traded and sold to represent proof that electricity was generated from a renewable energy source. That is, a provider creates actual renewable energy which is then integrated into the power grid, at which point it becomes physically indistinguishable from other electricity sources available on the grid and distributed by utility suppliers. By purchasing RECs, the buyer effectively buys green power. The purchasing of RECs helps institutions achieve carbon neutrality the point at which an institution is no longer contributing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and supports the future growth of the renewable energy industry. Colby-Sawyer's investment in RECs will help lead to more development and use of wind turbines, solar panels and other renewable energy sources.
"RECs can be sold as bundled with the electricity purchase or, in our case, unbundled as a separate product," says Sustainability Coordinator and Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Jennifer White '90. "In either case, these certificates are the primary means for selling and tracking the environmental benefits of renewable energy in the industry."
The purchase of RECs is a temporary option to assist Colby-Sawyer in reaching its environmental sustainability goals. As local renewable energy alternatives become more available, and as the college continues to reduce emissions at their source on campus, the college will shift from RECs toward more locally produced green power and electricity.
Keeping a Promise
Colby-Sawyer's goal of achieving a carbon-neutral campus by 2050 was established in its Climate Action Plan and approved by the college's Board of Trustees on May 7, 2010. The plan is a living or flexible document designed to guide the college toward two related visions: the quantitative achievement of climate neutrality and the qualitative embodiment of whole systems sustainability. This will require collaborative action across the college in six interconnected areas: energy; transportation; water and biodiversity; food; waste and consumption; and culture, curriculum and investment. Milestones along the way include a 50 percent reduction in emissions by 2015 and a 70 percent reduction by 2020.
In 2007, President Galligan first committed the college to reducing its global warming emissions and accelerating efforts to educate its community about ways to stabilize the earth's climate. The pledge was formalized with his signing of the American College & University Presidents' Climate Commitment, making Colby-Sawyer a charter signatory institution. There are now 685 signatories.
Climate change and global warming are among the defining issues of our time, President Galligan said then. We believe human activities have significantly contributed to the problem and we are committed to working together to solve it. Creating a culture of concern for the environment, including a commitment to sustainability, is critical to our success. Colby-Sawyer College is proud to be among those leading the way.
GreenROUTES A Student-Driven Initiative Redirecting Our campUs Towards Environmental Sustainability
The culture of concern for the environment and sustainability that President Galligan hoped for three years ago has grown and taken root as GreenROUTES, a campus-wide, student-driven initiative with a mission to reduce Colby-Sawyer's environmental footprint; minimize waste; reduce the need and usage of gas, electricity, paper and food; and improve the quality and efficiency of buildings on campus. During the 2006-2007 academic year, nine Environmental Studies students, as part of their third-year project, conducted the college's first campus sustainability assessment and established an action plan for reducing the campus's environmental impact.
In 2008-2009 another group of students continued the GreenROUTES project with a focus on meeting the requirements of the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment. To do so, they completed a greenhouse gas inventory using Clean Air-Cool Planet's Campus Carbon Calculator and developed a comprehensive set of policy recommendations to reduce the college's carbon footprint. Both student reports serve as a foundation for the college's Climate Action Plan.
Looking Forward to a Deeper Shade of Green
Colby-Sawyer College views the purchase of RECs as a stepping stone in an integrated long-term approach in which it will take advantage of energy conservation opportunities, high efficiency equipment, and where possible, renewable energy sources on campus. Since there are currently few commercial options in the region for renewable energy sources, this alternative allows the college to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by more than 3,300 metric tons as it waits for more locally available opportunities. This is equivalent to removing the annual greenhouse gas emissions from 631 passenger vehicles from the atmosphere or the CO2 emissions from 371,204 gallons of consumed gasoline. The college's GreenROUTES Climate Action Plan also sets an intention to integrate sustainability into the college's curriculum and overall learning environment, as well as reduce the environmental impact of its food, transportation, water and energy consumption.
Looking Back at Accomplishments
The GreenROUTES Climate Action Plan includes a partial list of the actions the college and its community members have taken to practice social, fiscal and environmental responsibility. These actions include the installation of high-performance windows and tray-less meals in the dining hall that reduce food waste and energy demands. The college has also updated its strategic plan to include a commitment to creating an environmentally sustainable campus community, increasing recycling efforts, and the replacement of incandescent lights with more energy efficient compact fluorescents across campus.
To learn more about Colby-Sawyer's sustainability efforts:
Read the entire GreenROUTES Climate Action Plan for Colby-Sawyer College.
Learn more about sustainability at Colby-Sawyer.
Learn more about Colby-Sawyer's Environmental Studies Department.
Read about President Galligan's Commitment to a Climate Neutral Campus.