University of California, Riverside

Center for Environmental Research & Technology

UCR and the UC’s Carbon Neutrality Initiative: Where are we now?

UCR and the UC’s Carbon Neutrality Initiative: Where are we now?

March 13, 2017

In November of 2013, UC President Janet Napolitano announced that the UC would commit to achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions from its buildings and vehicle fleet by 2025, an ambitious undertaking that no other major university system has attempted.  This Carbon Neutrality Initiative will capitalize on the cutting-edge research and implementation of sustainable business practices that are already taking place within the UC system.

Solar CarportTo support the initiative, President Napolitano created a Global Climate Leadership Council that is organized around these key contribution areas: energy services, applied research, campus and medical center climate action plans, sustainability policy, faculty and student engagement, health sciences and services, financial strategies, and communications and political advocacy. The council is composed of scientists, administrators, students, and experts from inside and outside the UC system who will engage the university community and the public in this effort. CE-CERT Director Dr. Matthew Barth is leading the research effort as a key member of the council.

Since its inception, the initiative has driven several successful projects at the system level. For example, UC is becoming an Energy Service Provider, providing economical, carbon-neutral electricity to our campuses. The development of two utility-scale solar power plants with a combined capacity of 80 megawatts (660 acres) have been funded, and agreements have been signed for the construction of a utility-scale biogas plant that will, when operational, supply fossil fuel-free gas to meet 2-5% of the UC system’s projected gas needs.

Although much has been accomplished toward this goal, a great deal of work still remains. UCR is rising to this challenge through the development of its 2017 Climate Action Plan. Items addressed in this plan will include numerous LED lighting conversions, HVAC upgrades, and research equipment replacements to improve energy efficiencies and reduce energy consumption. In the last couple of years, UCR has added over 3.5 MW of solar and plans to expand to over 13 MW (megawatts). The solar, coupled with thermal energy storage and battery storage, will provide a cost effective solution to a large portion of the campus electric load.

Additionally, the plan will acknowledge the importance of addressing operational strategies as well as infrastructure changes. Examples of this philosophy include changing energy procurement procedures to carbon-neutral sources, and the modification of the thermal energy storage system operation to stagger hours of use to match solar energy production and reduce peak-demand pricing on energy imports.

UCR is confident in its ability to meet the initiative goal of carbon neutrality by 2025, and plans to use a combination of infrastructure solutions and operational strategies to get there.

GHG Chart

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University of California, Riverside
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Riverside, CA 92521
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Riverside, CA 92507
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