Clean Air—Cool Planet

Presentation at the Clean Air-Cool Planet Conference
Global Warming and Energy Solutions 2007

Radisson Hotel, Manchester, N.H.
October 12, 2007

Success through Emissions Reductions: Past, Present, and Future

Good morning. It is a pleasure to be here and to represent the University of New Hampshire on this important issue. For us, emissions reduction makes sense environmentally and financially, and has become part and parcel of our mission of teaching, research, and public service, as well as integral to our commitment to sustainability.

In fact, if all goes well, by this time next year, UNH will actually reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 67 percent—below 2005 levels. This represents a reduction of 57 percent below 1990 levels, well below what is called for in the Kyoto Protocol. We are working with Waste Management of N.H., and just now laying the 12.7-mile pipeline system known as EcoLine™ that will pipe renewable, carbon-neutral landfill gas from Waste Management's Turnkey Recycling and Environmental Enterprise facility in Rochester to our co-generation plant on the Durham campus. When it is complete, UNH will be the first university in the United States to use landfill gas as a primary energy source. We will, in effect, be reducing emissions by actually reducing emissions, and not through the purchase of credits or offsets.

This graph shows the University's historical greenhouse gas emissions, which have a modest increase over time, despite the growth of our campus and student body, our emissions reductions due to the installation of our combined heat and power, or "co-gen” plant; and finally our projected reductions from our EcoLine™ project.

The cost of a healthy environment does not necessarily come with higher financial obligations. Although the initial investment—$45 million—is substantial, we estimate that we will recoup this cost in ten years. The pipeline will not only enable UNH to receive 80-85 percent of its energy from a renewable source; at the same time we will be able to stabilize the University's fluctuating energy costs. We all know that energy is expensive. Our costs have doubled in the last five years and grown at an annual rate of 18.9 percent.  By every measure, reducing the University's dependence on fossil fuels and reducing greenhouse gas emissions make the pipeline a sound strategy for us.

We have also seen significant emissions reductions through transportation policies and services, avoiding an estimated 4.5 million vehicle miles in one year via our Wildcat Transit system. Ridership is up—way up—with a record-breaking one million-plus riders this past year alone. That ridership makes us the largest public transit service in the state, and the majority of our vehicles run on alternative fuels. Through these efforts, UNH prevented more then 1 million private vehicle trips to our campus, last year alone.

These are great accomplishments. Our University is extremely proud of these efforts, which have led some to consider us the most sustainable university in the country. They are also part of our long-standing commitment to sustainability. UNH is ranked by the U.S. Department of Energy in the top five percent for energy efficiency among similar colleges and universities. It is also the first university in the nation to earn the Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star rating for a residence hall (we now have six more on campus).

What is particularly exciting to me about this achievement is that UNH engineering students participated in the analysis and evaluation along with EPA officials as part of their course work.

Our mission as a university goes beyond greening the campus. Today's students are the inheritors of the world's climate change crisis, and it is incumbent upon us to help them find solutions. It is imperative that what they learn here and now empowers them to advance a clean, secure energy future. As an educational institution, UNH provides a forum in which students are free to shape their perspectives on everything, and that certainly includes learning how to live sustainably as individuals and community members.

Students learn here in their classrooms, and they learn where they live. Among a full roster of courses across the University, students study climate science, marine science, public health, sustainable engineering, and sustainable food systems. They participate in research on climate and energy, complex systems, ecology and disease, rural communities, and community development.

And soon, they will work and learn at the University's Organic Dairy Research and Education program. Our moderator is a major contributor to this ideal industry/education partnership, which spawns internships in nutrition, life sciences, and engineering, as well as benefits organic producers throughout the region.

These are just a few of the ways that UNH has been working to reduce emissions and become a low-carbon community. I am new to the University this year, and its longstanding commitment to sustainability was among the first things that attracted me here. The power of education—one of New England's biggest and best resources—should never be undervalued. Overall, American universities teach some 14.5 million students each year, and because universities are often the largest energy users in their communities, their approaches to energy issues are important and can affect federal, state, and local policy. Sustainability and higher education make a great match. It is heartening to me to know that UNH is but one of thousands of American universities that are seeking solutions for today and tomorrow. Thank you.