The University began conducting an inventory of all the greenhouse gas emissions from the Storrs campus in 2003. Incomplete inventories exist dating back to 1996 as well as an additional inventory for 1990. The inventories provide the University with concrete data for evaluating its progress towards a more sustainable campus. The ACUPCC, signed in 2008, has given the University the goal of becoming a climate neutral campus by 2050. UConn now has comprehensive and consistent greenhouse gas inventories dating back to 2007.
Here you can find some graphs and explanations of emission sources over the last few years.
In 2012, on campus stationary sources were primarily responsible for emissions. In fact, going back to 2001, there has never been a year where energy-related emissions did not contribute at least 75% of the total emissions until now. Stationary sources now account for 73% of emissions showing a drop in emissions. This indicates that decreasing the demand for electricity, steam, and chilled water on campus is a worthwhile strategy for reducing the amount of emissions generated each year.
*It is important to note that composting on campus went from 1 ton to 3 tons from 2011 to 2012. This shows that composting initiatives are taking effect and we are reducing solid wastes which can contribute to some emissions.
The University of Connecticut has gone to great lengths to make its buildings significantly more energy efficient over the last few years. There are numerous energy saving initiatives underway and even completed at UConn. One example is the adoption of a sustainable design and construction policy which requires major construction and renovation projects to meet at least LEED Silver certification. Other initiatives include the replacement of lighting fixtures and bulbs with more efficient technology, retro-commissioning to optimize temperature and lighting controls in a third of the campus building space, and encouragement of behavioral changes by students through programs like the annual EcoMadness energy and water competition. One of the most significant additions to UConn’s energy efficiency is its cogeneration plant, which can harvest significantly more energy from its fuel than a similar conventional power plant.
This graph shows the amount of greenhouse gases produced by the Storrs campus from electricity production normalized by the number of full-time students attending the campus. The amount of emissions is measured as metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MT eCO2), which includes various other greenhouse gases like methane, nitrous oxide, and others. For reference, the average passenger car produces 5 MT eCO2 per year (EPA).
The co-generation plant began production in 2006. In that year, it was still being fine-tuned for efficiency and some electricity was still being purchased from the grid. Beginning in 2007, some per capita emission reductions were observed. More significant per capita emission reductions can be seen in 2009 and 2010, which followed the re-lamping initiative as well as the construction of the Burton-Schenkman facility, which is LEED Silver certified. In April, 2012, UConn commissioned a fuel cell power plant on its Depot Campus. This fuel cell should play a major role in supplying energy to the depot campus and reducing emissions from main campus.
Additional sources of emissions being accounted for include various transportation, travel, and commuting categories; agricultural categories such as fertilizer application and compost production; solid waste and wastewater production; and purchasing categories such as paper and refrigerants. The University also has a source of offsets in the form of its forests. The forests help sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere; however these reductions are dwarfed by the amount of emissions produced by the Storrs campus.
In accordance with the ACUPCC, UConn started tracking baselines for total emissions in 2007. The initial methodology for tracking these emissions was based on a worst case scenario for emissions. That is to say that the emissions levels were reported based on the overall GHG capacity rather than what was actually being emitted. As of 2010, UConn was able to record actual emission levels more accurately which has allowed us to capture a better idea of reduction trends. Since the change, the university has seen a 1.6% drop in MT eCO2 per student. This decline has occurred even as the number of full-time students has increased by 4% over the past four years. The decline in emissions contrary to growth in the student body are positive indicators that UConn will continue to cut its climate footprint, even as it expands into a bigger and better institution in the years to come. With the Climate Action Plan leading the way, UConn can be seen as an innovator and leader in sustainability.