The Dernogalizer

June 15, 2009

Virginia Tech Climate Plan

Kudos to the students, faculty, and administration at Virginia Tech for having a climate action plan on the brink of implementation.  At the University of Maryland, we’ve recently had our plan finalized, and overall the University of Maryland plan on paper is stronger than the Virginia Tech plan.  How these plans play out in reality remains to be seen, although there have been some good gestures from UMD including considerable upfront investments in energy efficiency.  I want to take a look Virginia Tech’s 14 goals and compare them to the University of Maryland, just a give a solid comparison of what steps our educational institutions are taking.

  1. Virginia Tech will be a leader in campus sustainability.   Yeah this one is probably the position of every university.  Not very concrete
  2. The Climate Action Commitment and Sustainability Plan will become a part of the university’s broader strategic plan. Same for us as far as sustainability becoming part of the plan
  3. Virginia Tech will establish a target for reduction of campus greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 80 percent below 1990 emission level by 2050, and interim targets from 2006 emissions of 316,000 tons consistent with the Virginia Energy Plan, theGovernor’s Commission on Climate Change, the Town of Blacksburg, and the federal administration: for 2012, 295,000 tons; for 2025, 255,000 tons; and for 2050, 38,000 tons (or 80 percent below 1990 emission level).  We’ve got a goal of 15% reduction below 2005 levels by 2012, 50% reduction for 2020, and carbon neutrality(zero net emissions) by 2050.  However the steps we have to reach these goals and the interim ones appear to be incomplete and inadequate.
  4. Virginia Tech will work toward these emission reduction targets though improved energy efficiency, reduction of energy waste, replacement of high-carbon fuels, and other measures identified in the climate action commitment and sustainability plan.  Our goals are a 10% reduction of energy usage by 2010, and an additional 5% each subsequent 5 years up to 2025.  We’re also looking to use lower-carbon fuels, cleaner-burning biofuels, and plug-in vehicles.
  5. Virginia Tech will establish an Office of Sustainability to coordinate programs, oversee the implements on the plan, monitor annual energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, and work with faculty with faculty and departments manage a campus-wide student internship and undergraduate research program using the campus as a sustainability laboratory.  We’ve had this for 2 years now, they’re great!
  6. Virginia Tech will pursue LEED Silver certification or better for all new buildings and major renovations.  We’ve got this standard, but also another part that says as we grow we want that grow to be carbon neutral, which in contrasting since then you’d need carbon neutral buildings.
  7. Virginia Tech will improve electricity and heating efficiency of campus facilities and their operations, including the heating and cooling infrastructure and operation, lighting efficiency, controls and operation, and equipment efficiency and controls.  This kind of ties into energy efficiency.  We’re also doing this and already have a combined heat and power back-up generator, and are looking to do a C&P biomass plant by 2025.
  8. The university will adopt at least four reduction measures in the waste minimization component of the national RecycleMania competition. Virginia Tech Recycling will adopt a goal of 35 percent recycle rate by 2012 and 50 percent by 2025.  Our goal is 60% by 2010, and 75% by 2013.
  9. Virginia Tech will require purchase of Energy Star related equipment, maximum practicable recycled-content paper, and other low life cycle cost products, with exceptions for special uses.  Once again ties into energy efficiency we’re big on.
  10. Virginia Tech will engage students, faculty, and staff through education and involvement to reduce consumption of energy, water, and materials in academic and research buildings, dining and residence halls, and other facilities.  Kind of vague but we’re dong that too, but need more education for sure.
  11. Virginia Tech will improve transportation energy efficiency on campus through parking, fleet, and alternative transpiration policies. Alternative transportation use will increase from the current level of 45 percent to a goal of 52 percent in 2015 and 60 percent in 2020.  We’re looking to expand shuttle buses, set up a car-pooling program, and modify behavior, but transportation is in my opinion the weakest part of our plan.  A lot of our reductions are addressed with offsets.
  12. The university will create and support a virtual Virginia Tech School of Sustainability or similar mechanism to coordinate, develop, and communicate related instructional, research, and outreach academic programs.  Cool, not sure what we have, besides a website…
  13. The university will monitor energy use of greenhouse gas emissions as well as changing internal and external conditions, prepare an annual report card sharing progress toward targets, and periodically re-evaluate targets, making adjustments to targets as appropriate based on changing internal and external conditions and evolving technologies.  Us too
  14. With regard to all the items in this resolution, major personnel, and investment decisions, including capital projects associated with implementing the climate action commitment and sustainability plan, will be based on a joint review of costs and benefits by university financial and facilities staff and be subject to the availability of funds. Virginia Tech will provide funding to support sustainability programs through a variety of sources, which might include saving from reduced electricity and energy fuels, E&G funds, loans, a Green Development Fund from private sources, and a student Green Fee.  Money does make the world go round no matter where you go.  One idea we’ve had is a campus green alumni fund where alumni can specifically donate to greening the campus.
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