Clean Energy Initiative

In 2014 we boasted sustainability@BU was six years old and six years early in meeting its 2020 greenhouse gas reduction goal of 25%. As we celebrated, the BU community posed the question, “What next?” In response, we dedicated 2015 to develop the BU Clean Energy Initiative, an effort to procure a meaningful amount of renewable energy while continuing to drive down consumption.

The Clean Energy Initiative begins with energy efficiency. In 2006 we produced over 166,000 metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent (MTCO2e) to operate our facilities. By 2015, we produced less than 125,000 MTCO2e. Three efforts contributed to this reduction:

1. Initially our reductions were through efficiency upgrades at the Central Plant, mechanical systems, and lighting projects on campus.

2. In 2011 and 2012 we converted our large oil heating systems to natural gas. In 2006, 24% of the energy consumed by BU was from burning oil, now it is only 3%.

3. From 2000 through 2014 the electricity from the grid in New England has gotten progressively greener. In 2000, 40% of our electricity was produced from coal and oil, now only 6% is; replaced by natural gas, nuclear and renewables.

In 2014 we met our 2020 GHG reduction goal. As the graph below illustrates, this was through energy efficiency, fuel switching, and, significantly, the greening of the grid. Several factors will further influence changes in the carbon intensity of the New England grid in the coming years. Carbon neutral nuclear plants are being replaced by more carbon intense natural gas facilities. This will increase the grid’s greenhouse gas emissions while new hydropower from Quebec and renewable energy in the region will help to decrease emissions. Since the grid’s carbon intensity is unpredictable, BU’s Clean Energy Initiative will help the University take control of its emissions through energy efficiency and renewable energy generation.

FY17 Clean Energy Initiative-2

So the question is, how do we take control?

Renewable Energy

The University is considering a multiphase renewable energy plan. Phase 1 includes solar on campus and off campus, phase 2 includes additional solar on and off campus, phase 3 includes wind power generation off campus.

Phase 1: We are exploring a total of over 2 MW of rooftop solar on the Medical and Charles River Campuses. Together these campus projects amount to less than 2% of the University’s load, so in order to make a meaningful impact, we have to look off campus. We are evaluating opportunities for solar power off campus. As a result of recent changes in Massachusetts’ solar incentive programs sustainability@BU has put portions of Phase 1 on hold until the fall of 2016 when it is expected a clear path forward can be determined.

Energy Efficiency

Energy efficiency will always be the backbone of a strategy to reduce the University’s greenhouse gas emissions. Boston University is committed to reducing its energy consumption by 10% from FY2012 to the end of FY2017.

EUI Graph