Through a proactive and inspired approach to energy usage, including aggressively participating in programs which encourage energy savings, sustainability, and overall energy efficiencies, the University Facilities & Capital Planning group of Rutgers University has been racking up impressive savings.
A report from the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that since 2009, the University’s environmental initiatives have resulted in savings of $41 million in operating expenses.
“In November 2009, we signed a memorandum of understanding with the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce emissions and lower our carbon footprint,” said Joseph Witkowski, Executive Director, Utilities Operations, who coordinates these efforts for University Facilities & Capital Planning. “Every six months we submit data to the EPA which details all of our sustainability efforts including offsetting emissions, waste reduction, recycling, and overall conservation and energy reduction.”
In its most recent report issued November 2013, using eight reporting periods, the EPA estimated that based on the data submitted, the University has reduced its carbon footprint by 261,080 Metric Ton Carbon Dioxide Equivalent (MTCO2e) and saved an estimated $41 million in operating expenses through energy conservation programs, alternative energy usage, water conservation, solid waste recycling, green landscaping, and the use of more efficient campus vehicles.
In addition, the University was awarded a certificate for its successful participation in the EPA’s Combined Heat and Power Partnership (CHP). The voluntary program seeks to reduce the environmental impact of power generation by promoting the use of CHP.
“Since 2009, when we joined the program, we successfully avoided emissions totaling 780,000 metric tons that would have occurred had we purchased power generated from other sources rather than producing the power in our co-generation facility,” Witkowski explained. “In addition, the EPA estimates that since 2009, we saved almost $25 million on this one initiative.”
“Joe and his group have aggressively sought partnership programs, grants and rebates to introduce many of these initiatives to our campus and to realize actual savings,” said Antonio Calcado, Vice President, University Facilities & Capital Planning. “As a result, we are seeing the benefits in real dollars as well as in the creation of a more sustainable campus. In a campus this size, these efforts matter.”
Among the most notable grants that have contributed to alternative energy production since 2009 was the NJ Clean Energy Solar Grant totaling $4,940,000, which covered one half the cost of the Berrue Circle solar farm. In addition, for every megawatt of solar power generated within the state, a Solar Renewable Energy Certificate (SREC) can be sold, thus further offsetting the cost of the investment.
In another example, participating in PSE&G’s Direct Install Program, Rutgers saved some $3,421,800, or about 80 percent of the cost of converting to more efficient lights in 31 campus buildings. “In this case,” said Witkowski, “PSE&G partnered with us to help install efficient lighting. They paid 80 percent of the costs to our 20 percent. The cost savings does not even factor in our energy savings. The new lights generate as much light at the old ones, but with far greater efficiency.”
The University also received $593,000 in NJ Smart Start Rebates and has applied for an additional $749,000. The replacement and/or installation of high efficiency, Energy Star rated equipment such as large air conditioner units and motors, qualifies for these rebates.
Witkowski continued, “We are very proactive in seeking out and participating in programs that provide savings incentives. For example, some of our smaller campus buildings benefited by NJ Clean Energy Direct Install, which is specifically for buildings equivalent in size to an average house.” These projects seek to achieve about a 30 percent reduction in energy use and consist of small scale projects such as new air conditioning units, new insulation, and small boiler installations.
By participating in the Federal Energy Commission’s FERC 745, the University’s annual savings was nearly $280,000. The goal of FERC 745 is to pay electricity users the same rate that they pay generators who supply grid power and who cut consumption when prices and consumption are high. This relieves grid pressure during peak times.
“We can make sensible changes which benefit everyone without diminishing the quality of life on campus,” said Calcado.