For the past decade, Carnegie Mellon University has committed to protecting the planet’s future by ensuring that all of its purchased electricity has come from renewable sources. Now, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has named the university to its Top 30 College and University List as part of its Green Power Partnership, ranking it No. 11 among all national universities.
Green power is electricity that is generated from environmentally preferable renewable resources, such as wind, solar, geothermal, biogas, biomass and low-impact hydro.
According to the EPA, as of Oct. 25 the combined annual green power use of the 30 colleges and universities on the list totals nearly 3.8 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of green power, which is equivalent to the annual electricity use of more than 351,000 average American homes. Carnegie Mellon is purchasing nearly 125,005,846 kWh of green power annually, which is enough to meet 111% of the university’s purchased electricity use.
“This important ranking from the EPA demonstrates Carnegie Mellon’s commitment to the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and in this case to the use of renewable energy to protect the environment,” said CMU Provost James H. Garrett Jr. “Whether through renewable energy, our numerous LEED certified buildings or our storm water management, the university is intently focused on our shared responsibility to not only educate the future leaders of our world, but to help save the planet they live on as well. Our Sustainability Initiative involves students, faculty and staff members and promotes education, practice and research related to the 17 SDGs.”
Renewable energy credits, or RECs, are how green power is tracked and traded and is the accepted way to reduce carbon emissions in North America. When a renewable energy facility produces one MWh of electricity and adds it to the power grid, one corresponding REC is also generated. Organizations that purchase RECs corresponding to their electrical consumption can be assured that an equivalent amount of clean power was generated at a renewable facility and added to the power grid. RECs are endorsed and purchased by the EPA, Fortune 500 companies and NGOs.
“CMU began purchasing renewable energy in 2001 with 5% of the university’s electricity usage fueled by wind power. At that time, it was the largest-ever retail purchase of wind-generated electricity in America. Twenty years later we’re at 111% renewable energy,” said Steven Guenther, assistant vice president of Facilities Management and university engineer. “This is an important and proud milestone for the university community.”
Since 2001, CMU has steadily increased the amount of green energy it has purchased. In 2019, CMU and ENGIE Resources announced a series of multiyear energy agreements through 2024 in which the university will purchase energy from the Radford’s Run Wind Farm for its Pittsburgh campus. Its Manufacturing Futures Institute is powered by the massive 110,000 square feet of solar panels that cover the entire rooftop of Mill 19, the first building on the Hazelwood Green development.
The university has consistently been recognized by the EPA for its green power purchasing program. CMU is a founding EPA Green Power Partner and recipient of a 2010 Green Power Leadership Award. In addition, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education recently ranked CMU in a tie for No. 5 for research on sustainability issues among all universities in the U.S. and Canada.
The 2019 CMU Sustainability Initiative included a voluntary review of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the first of its kind by any university. The goal of the voluntary review was to enhance CMU’s performance education, research and practice within the framework of the SDGs. In November, CMU released its second Voluntary University Review of the SDGs, which includes progress updates and new tools to map and visualize how initiatives relate to the goals.