Feb. 5, 2007
Photos: Former UI Student Government President Mark Kresowik (top, left) poses with a snowman wearing a T-shirt designed as part of a campus-wide energy conservation awareness campaign.Several UI students hold up a poster (right) with details about a campus-wide energy conservation awareness campaign.
Philippe Cousteau (bottom, left), president of EarthEcho International and grandson of legendary undersea explorer Jacques Cousteau, speaks during a global warming educational rally sponsored by UI Student Government as part of the fall 2006 Energy Expo.
UI Seeing Green: Launches Ambitious Energy Conservation Plan
The University of Iowa is on track to save more than $5 million in reduced energy expenditures for the 24-month period ending in June 2007, thanks to efforts launched by the Energy Conservation Advisory Council (ECAC). Those accomplishments, and plans for future conservation measures, are summarized in the UI's new Energy Conservation Strategic Plan, available online at http://energy.uiowa.edu/energyplan.htm
The plan is the most ambitious in the UI's 160-year history, and one of the most comprehensive in the Big Ten. Highlights of the plan include a commitment to sharply reduce the university's reliance on non-renewable energy sources by 2013, unprecedented campus-wide participation, and a direct tie-in with the UI's research and educational missions.
"This is an exciting and unique opportunity to seriously rethink every aspect of energy, from traditional and alternative sources to consumption and costs," said Don Guckert, director of Facilities Management and associate vice president for finance and operations. "We owe it to Iowans, the students who help fund the university, and to society to do all we can to conserve and to use alternative energy sources whenever and wherever possible. It's really about energy security."
Jerry Schnoor, a UI professor of civil and environmental engineering and chair of ECAC, agreed.
"The University of Iowa is a leader among all universities in the country in the use of renewable energy and (now) in composing this energy plan through the collaboration of students, staff and faculty," Schnoor said. "It is proof that the university can help protect the environment while saving a significant amount of money for education and research."
Guckert said students in particular have played a key role in promoting awareness about energy conservation across campus, by serving on ECAC, distributing posters, conducting energy audits, and developing feasibility plans for wind-generated power and other renewable energy sources.
Addison Stark, vice president of the UI Student Government and a member of the Energy Conservation Advisory Council, chaired an ECAC sub-committee that helped draft the Energy Conservation Strategic Plan.
"My involvement demonstrates the commitment the university has to including all of its stake-holders - especially students -- in the major, strategic decisions," Stark said.
"I am really excited about this plan," he added. "It has a mix of ambition and feasibility that you wouldn't expect from a plan that calls for 15 percent renewable energy on campus in five years. We at UISG are truly excited to be able to work with such an innovative Facilities Management."
The conservation plan has three primary objectives: reliability, in the form of robust and dependable utility production and distribution systems; conservation, specifically a 10 percent reduction in energy use per square foot by 2013; and sustainability in the form of reliance on renewable resources for up to 15 percent of its energy by 2013. At present, the UI's overall energy portfolio is about 11 percent renewable, including purchased electricity and produced electric power and steam.
The plan is an outgrowth of a challenge put to campus by the General Education Fund (GEF) Task Force in 2004 to reduce energy expenditures by $1.5 million over three years. The campus not only met that goal, but Facilities Management identified energy management as one of its five ver-arching organizational goals and developed strategies to reduce energy costs.
Those strategies have included:
* Joining the Chicago Climate Exchange, North America's only -- and the world's first --greenhouse gas emission registry, reduction and trading system for all six greenhouse gases.
* Exploring alternative energy sources, such as oat hulls obtained from Quaker Oats in Cedar Rapids and burned in place of coal at the UI's power plant.
* Creating an Energy Conservation Website -- http://energy.uiowa.edu/ -- where the UI community can learn about the latest conservation efforts on campus and find ways to get more involved with the effort.
* Sponsoring the annual Energy Expo, which features conferences, demonstrations, information and speakers by such renowned conservation experts as Philippe Cousteau, president of EarthEcho International and grandson of legendary undersea explorer Jacques Cousteau, who attended the expo last fall.
* Partnering with MidAmerican Energy, UI Student Government and the student organization Engineers for a Sustainable World to develop awareness campaigns, which have included the creation of posters for buildings and buses to discourage wasteful energy practices across campus.
* Partnering with the College of Engineering to examine the feasibility of wind- and hydro-powered energy projects, and with the city of Iowa City to capture and burn landfill methane gas instead of fossil fuels.
* Engaging the 26-member Energy Conservation Advisory Council -- created in 2004 and composed of administrators, faculty, staff and students -- to encourage conservation across campus and help develop new initiatives.
* Developing higher energy efficiency standards for building construction, improvements and maintenance. In fiscal year 2005, for example, the UI began a maintenance program to correct improperly functioning steam traps, saving 5 to 10 percent of steam usage per building. And chilled water optimization projects in UI Hospitals and Clinics and other campus buildings resulted in a "cost avoidance" of more than $2.5 million thus far.
Nationally, interest in energy conservation and alternative fuels has grown significantly in recent years, in large part because of overwhelming agreement among scientists that human activity is contributing to global warming. Just Friday, an international network of climate experts issued its fourth report stating that human activity has sped up global warming but said the problem can be substantially blunted by prompt action.
For the UI, conservation is as much a practical matter as a philosophical matter. In the past two years, the UI has faced rising costs of natural gas and coal and increased demands by new and renovated facilities that increased energy costs by 26 percent. Which is why Facilities Management -- in cooperation with the College of Engineering -- has taken seriously the challenge of conducting first-hand research into alterative energy sources.
Guckert considers the UI's oat hull-burning program -- formally the UI Biomass Fuel Project -- the "crown jewel" of the campus's energy conservation efforts. Begun in 2002, the program has saved the university more than $1.7 million in coal costs -- $750,000 in fiscal year 2006 -- by burning byproducts of cereal production by Quaker Oats in the Main Power Plant, which serves UI and UI Hospitals and Clinics facilities.
The success of the oat hull project allowed the UI in 2004 to join the Chicago Climate Exchange, where it remains one of only three member public universities.
Under its contract with the exchange, the UI agreed to cut its carbon emissions by up to 4 percent below an average baseline of 275,769 metric tons over the first four years. Any reductions beyond that would earn the UI carbon credits, which the UI could retire - thus keeping that much carbon out of the atmosphere - or sell to other exchange members for money that could be reinvested in additional conservation measures.
Because of the oat hull program's success, the UI earned 32,300 metric tons of carbon credit between 2003 and 2005. Based on current trading on the exchange, that puts its value at about $125,125. And that number doesn't include an estimated 20,000 metric tons saved in 2006.
The university's conservation efforts have also garnered numerous awards. In 2005 and 2006, Buildings Magazine ranked the UI among the Top 10 institutions for its "A List" in part because of the university's energy initiatives. In 2004, the UI Biomass Fuel Project received two Governor's Iowa Environmental Excellence Awards. And in 2005, the project received an Effective and Innovative Practices Award from the Association of Higher Education Facilities Officers.
Facilities Management has also been recognized by the State of Iowa and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources for Environmental Excellence and Leadership for its participation in the Pollution and Prevention Intern Program in 2006.
The university is hardly resting on its laurels, or its oat hulls. As part of its Energy Challenge, Facilities Management additional strategies for meeting its objectives for 2013, including:
* Reinvestment of energy rebates: In most cases, rebates earned by campus for complying with national energy-efficiency standards when building new facilities will be invested in other campus conservation efforts to help offset the energy demand created by the new project.
* Central building control and monitoring: By ensuring that building heating and air conditioning systems have scheduled temperature adjustments for times when buildings aren't occupied, the UI expects to realize additional energy savings.
* Energy Star purchases: Whenever possible, the UI will purchase equipment that is rated energy efficient by this joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy.
Additional plans also are in the works to tie energy conservation more closely to the university's educational and research missions.
Schnoor developed a "Sustainable Systems" course for undergraduate and graduate students in engineering. Students in the course have tackled a number of real-world issues.
One group developed a proposal for a pilot project to compost about 52 tons of food waste generated each year by Hillcrest Residence Hall's Food Services division. Another conducted a site study for the construction of a turbine that could produce wind-generated power in or near Iowa City. Yet another developed a plan for promoting energy-smart behavior among students through a combination of radio spots, an R.A. training program and other methods.
A next logical step, Guckert said, would be to create a learning laboratory in the UI's power plant where students could research biofuels beyond oat hulls that might further reduce the plant's dependence on coal.
"The exciting part of the University of Iowa's conservation plan is that we're just getting started," Guckert said. "We look forward to exploring other ways to engage faculty, staff and students in this effort, and to building on our relationships with key partners throughout the state, including Iowa State University, the University of Northern Iowa and private industry."
MEDIA CONTACTS: Jerry Schnoor, 319-335-5649, or Don Guckert, 319-335-1248; Writers: Stephen Pradarelli, 319-384-0007, firstname.lastname@example.org, and Gary Galluzzo, 319-384-0009, mailto:email@example.com.