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Carbon Neutrality Update from the Director of Sustainability

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Carbon Neutrality Update from the Director of Sustainability

February 3, 2014

Winter 2014 Update from Jack Byrne

The College continues to progress toward our carbon neutrality goal and is looking beyond 2016 to plan what we do next.
Our FY13 carbon emissions were 50% below our 2007 baseline year emissions due to the high performance of our biomass system AND the cumulative effects of the numerous energy efficiency projects the College has completed over the past several years. The next big step will be the switch to using biomethane to displace the fuel oil we still burn when biomass is not enough to meet heating and cooling demands (more info to come about bio-methane).

The approval of the Vermont Gas Systems pipeline project by the VT Public Service Board and its subsequent construction will provide a cost effective means for getting the biogas to the College's boilers and allowing us to access gas on an "as needed" basis when biomass is not enough to meet demand. It is anticipated that the biomethane project will be online for commissioning in late 2014/early 2015.

Once in place the College's carbon emissions will be reduced by a significant amount- in the range of 40% of our baseline emissions, i.e., about a 90% reduction from our baseline year. Further reduction is possible depending on the amount of manure that is digested and the additional carbon credits we will receive from the avoided emissions of methane that would have occurred without the combustion of the methane in the College boilers.

Once this is achieved, remainder of our carbon emissions will be from College related travel, electricity purchased, vehicle fleet and waste sent to the landfill. We are in the process of revising the method for calculating emissions from travel as it represents more than half of the total that would remain to assure that we are using as accurate an estimate as feasible. We have some control over travel and might squeeze more efficiencies out of that area. We are recycling 66% or our waste and might be able to raise that a bit more. And we are dependent on the choices of our utility Green Mountain Power for purchasing electricity as to the carbon emissions associated with the electricity we buy from them. There are some possibilities with the biomethane project that might enable us to convert some of our vehicle fleet to run on that carbon neutral fuel. And we may still have to consider the purchase, or creation, of carbon credits, from other sources.

The Sustainability Office and Facilities are also working on two projects to improve the efficiency of energy use on campus with our partner Efficiency Vermont. First is a student thesis project to apply, measure impact and study various types of energy conservation messages and techniques regarding student energy use in dormitories (Abby Karp – student, Michelle McCauley – Psychology are the student and faculty). The other project is a study of building occupancy uses of energy in Axinn including scheduling, actual usage, and automated energy management settings. These two projects will provide valuable insight into methods and messages that can be used to further increase the efficiency with which we use energy on campus, and how to be more effective at conserving it.