U exceeds energy goals

The original 5-percent reduction was achieved three months early.

James Nord

The University of Minnesota announced Tuesday itâÄôs ahead of schedule in its goals to reduce the amount of energy consumed on campus. Originally slated to complete a 5-percent reduction by June, the University reached the objective in March, roughly three months early. The decrease will save about $2.25 million annually and will result in a cutback of the equivalent of 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide. Currently, University buildings expel about 500,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide yearly, according to a Board of Regents report. âÄúFive percent âĦ doesnâÄôt sound like much until you start thinking about what that means in terms of dollars,âÄù said Jim Green, University assistant director of energy management. âÄúThatâÄôs money that the University can use to do a lot better things than pay utility bills.âÄù The UniversityâÄôs Twin Cities campus paid about $83 million in utilities costs during fiscal year 2009, according to the report. Although the University has been concerned with reducing energy consumption for some time, these goals came into focus about a year and a half ago, Green said. In October, the University received an âÄúA-âÄù on the College Sustainability Report Card 2010 issued by the nonprofit Sustainable Endowments Institute, a project of the Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. At the time, Susan Paykin, a spokeswoman for the organization, cited the UniversityâÄôs âÄúimpressiveâÄù steps toward energy use reductions as part of the decision, which raised its grade from a âÄúB+âÄù in the 2009 report. Originally, the UniversityâÄôs efforts were based on sustainability, but as the overall economic climate worsened, it became sensible to invest in cost reductions made possible by increased efficiency, Green said. Currently, the University faces a roughly $132 million budget shortfall as a result of unallotments and declining state aid. However, despite fiscal difficulties, the administration has been helpful, Green said. âÄúWeâÄôve got great support from the administration in terms of finding the resources to bring people on to do the work.âÄù Green and about 20 technicians and engineers, who also work to keep the campus running in a more general sense, are involved in recommissioning buildings, which acts as a âÄútune upâÄù to increase efficiency. All of the roughly 250 buildings on campus are examined over a four-year cycle under the program, he said. Forty buildings a year are set to be reviewed. During that period, engineers also look to make small changes to buildings, such as tweaking light cycles or changing schedules to increase efficiency immediately. Any improvement in efficiency is required to have a five-year payoff, Green said. For example, a study completed in 2008 that resulted in a âÄútune-upâÄù of Ford Hall saves roughly $24,000 annually and paid for itself in about two years. Typically, energy savings resulting from recommissioning a building range from 5 to 15 percent. Green forecast the University would save about $2.5 million by June, roughly $250,000 more than expected. Other components of the program include efforts to promote culture change and to ensure that new buildings are energy efficient. Unveiled at last yearâÄôs âÄúBeautiful UâÄù day, the âÄúIt All Adds UpâÄù campaign outlined the UniversityâÄôs efficiency goals. Part of the campaign resulted in more than 10,000 pledges from students and staff to be more energy efficient. Additionally, student involvement has been important, Green said. A federation of groups called the âÄúPower PoliceâÄù deploy students into buildings to distribute power strips in an attempt to make computer use more efficient by providing an easy method of disconnecting them from the power supply. He said goals for next year would be completed in June. âÄúNo matter what angle you come from, thereâÄôs no downside to saving energy,âÄù Green said.