U-M unveils universitywide energy conservation projects

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Following its commitment last year to achieve universitywide carbon neutrality, the University of Michigan is unveiling an initial $5 million investment in energy conservation measures that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The measures include substantial LED lighting projects, and heating, ventilation and air conditioning improvements that span U-M campuses and units.

Each project is funded by a central revolving energy fund created to support U-M’s carbon neutrality commitment. It provides loans to university units for investments in energy-conserving infrastructure improvements. Units will then return annual energy cost savings to the fund until project costs are repaid, allowing the fund to support new projects over time.

“Sustained innovation is crucial in the fight against climate change, and I applaud the university units who are taking action to conserve energy and reduce carbon emissions,” President Mark Schlissel said. “Our revolving energy fund will provide a sustainable financing system to encourage the greater participation we will need to fulfill U-M’s carbon neutrality goals.”

“The revolving energy fund and the energy conservation measures it supports are critical steps toward achieving carbon neutrality,” said Drew Horning, special adviser to the president for carbon neutrality strategy. “These new investments will support projects across all three campuses, allowing U-M to reduce its carbon footprint and use energy more efficiently.”

New projects and funding mechanisms

Over the past year, U-M energy management staff collaborated with units throughout the university to identify more than 200 potential energy conservation projects with the potential to reduce greenhouse gas carbon emissions. From these, more than 25 projects were selected for funding during the current fiscal year.

Projects span the Dearborn, Flint and Ann Arbor campuses, including projects at Michigan Medicine and Student Life. They include:

  • LED lighting upgrades on the Ann Arbor campus, including at Brehm Tower, G.G. Brown Laboratories, Couzens Hall, the Herbert H. Dow Building, the James and Anne Duderstadt Center, East Ann Arbor Health and Geriatrics Center, East Hall, East Quad, Frankel Cardiovascular Center, North Campus Research Complex, Harrison M. Randall Laboratory, Rogel Cancer Center and A. Alfred Taubman Health Care Center.
  • LED lighting upgrades at UM-Flint’s William R. Murchie Science Building and Riverfront Residence Hall.
  • LED lighting upgrades at U-M Dearborn’s High Performance Educational Center, Mardigian Library, Natural Sciences Building South, Professional Education Center, Science Learning and Research Center, Social Sciences Building and University Center.
  • HVAC improvements at University Hospital and pump upgrades at East Hall and the North University Building.

“We’re thrilled by the amount of interest on the part of schools, colleges and units wanting to make their operations more sustainable,” said Andy Berki, director of the Office of Campus Sustainability. “We selected a number of projects that will reduce emissions and don’t require a significant amount of engineering design, enabling each to be a great opportunity to make quick progress.”

Last year, Schlissel committed $25 million in preliminary funding over the next five years. The revolving energy fund is expected to fully launch during the 2022-23 fiscal year. Additional details, regarding the project review and selection process as well as guidelines for campus units interested in proposing projects for funding, will be forthcoming.

Ongoing energy efficiency and carbon neutrality efforts

While the revolving energy fund will primarily support retrofits within U-M facilities, major building renovations also include significant energy efficiency improvements as part of their capital project budgets.

The recently completed School of Kinesiology Building renovation and addition project, for instance, included features with a predicted energy cost savings of 41 percent, as compared with a code-compliant building per 2007 guidelines from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers.

All new U-M buildings and additions with an estimated construction budget greater than $10 million are required to achieve at least a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

Additional current efforts toward carbon neutrality include exploring geothermal heating and cooling systems for the planned Leinweber Computer Science and Information Building on North Campus, committing to procure all purchased electricity from renewable sources, and acquiring four all-electric buses for the Ann Arbor campus. E-buses will be deployed during the 2022-23 academic year in a step toward decarbonizing the university’s vehicle fleet.

U-M aims to achieve carbon neutrality for emissions from purchased power — known as Scope 2 emissions — by 2025; eliminate direct, on-campus greenhouse gas emissions — Scope 1 emissions — by 2040; and establish goals by 2025 for a wide range of indirect emission — Scope 3 — sources.

U-M commitments are informed by guidance from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Relative to 2010 greenhouse gas emissions levels, the university is on pace to reduce Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 50 percent by 2025, which exceeds the IPCC’s guidance to reduce emissions by 45 percent by 2030.

U-M’s commitment to eliminate 100 percent of Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2040 is 10 years ahead of the IPCC’s global net-zero target.

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