To: Students, Faculty, Staff; Advancement to send to Alumni, Parents
From: Laurie Patton and Jack Byrne via
Subject: Energy2028 Update
Date: March 31, 2021

Dear Middlebury Community,

We write today with a progress update on Energy2028, Middlebury’s 10-year sustainability initiative, which was first announced in 2019. Look for more frequent updates on Energy2028 in the coming months. 

Energy2028 rests on four pillars, each of which we’ll highlight in this message: Transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy sources; Cutting energy consumption by 25 percent; Divesting from fossil fuels; and Integrating Energy2028 with the educational mission of the College. We’ll also tell you about the initiative’s equity and justice framework and the upcoming Energy2028 Earth Week events.

As always, students play a vital role in this plan, providing critical problem-solving skills and creative solutions that will help us reach our goals. And they do this in countless ways. Students: we invite you to explore the opportunities to get involved and to lend your talents and enthusiasm in whatever way suits you. And, of course, we extend the same invitation to faculty and staff. We will only reach our ambitious goals through a dedicated community effort. 

Energy2028 Earth Week Events and the Clifford Symposium

First, we invite you to participate in a series of Energy2028 events planned for the week of April 19, to celebrate our accomplishments and help map our efforts to address the climate crisis, its inequitable impacts, and its threats to all life on earth. These events, scheduled during Earth Week, will begin on Monday, April 19, with a discussion of our past and how we arrived at Energy2028.

On Wednesday, April 21, we will survey our present—our progress and challenges in implementing Energy2028 to date—and on Friday, April 23, we will open up the discussion to consider our future, both before 2028 and beyond, especially as we seek to further the integration of justice and anti-racism in all of our work. These events will serve as a springboard for a series of talks, workshops, and other activities to accelerate progress on our goals. We hope you will join us for these important conversations.

As was recently announced, this fall’s Clifford Symposium’s theme is “Radical Implications: Facing a Planetary Emergency.” The symposium will build on the ideas and outcomes from the Energy2028 Earth Week events while delving into topics of how we, as a learning community, are grappling with the momentous implications of today’s intersecting and connected crises and transformations, especially in a climate-change-defined future. It will help inform our efforts to implement Energy2028 and provide us with new perspectives on how to move forward.

Equity and Justice Framework

In parallel with our anti-racism and diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, the Environmental Council and others are developing a framework to inform our Energy2028 actions to make social justice and equity considerations an integral part of our decisions. We also had a creative and compelling winter term course on climate justice that brought together a diverse range of voices from the front lines of the climate justice movement with 42 students and instructors to help shape a Middlebury framework.

Transition to 100 Percent Renewable Energy Sources

We are pleased to say that we are close to completing two major projects that will move us toward our 100 percent renewable energy goal.

  • Digester: An anaerobic digester system at the Goodrich Farm in Salisbury will begin producing renewable natural gas from cow manure and food waste later this year. The College will receive 100,000 mcf (thousand cubic feet) of this gas annually to displace the natural gas we currently use when the biomass system cannot meet our heating needs. This will bring us close to heating the campus with 100 percent renewable fuel. We also are exploring ways to heat the many buildings not served by the central system. Students in a J-term course, Carbonomics and Renewable Energy, took on this question and have provided innovative ideas and feasibility considerations for solving this puzzle.

  • Solar: A five-megawatt solar array planned for construction on South Street Extension is in the state permitting process. That system will provide about 33 percent of the College’s electrical needs. The project has a planned second phase that will include two megawatts of battery storage to provide a more consistent availability of electricity and potentially serve as an emergency source of power during local outages.

Cut Energy Consumption by 25 Percent

This challenge is in many ways our most complex. Our wonderful campus buildings are a significant source of energy usage and we are working to make them more efficient while serving our learning, living, and working needs. Our recent Munroe Hall renovation serves as an example of how Energy2028 guides improvements in energy efficiency and conservation while serving our programming needs more effectively. We added upgraded insulation, new windows, new mechanical systems, and air conditioning for all spaces, which has resulted in a projected 20 percent net reduction in energy consumption compared to its prerenovation status.

Cutting energy consumption by 25 percent from our 2018 baseline requires all of us to reduce our own personal energy use to conserve energy in our buildings on campus. The Sustainability Solutions Lab has been working with faculty in the Psychology and Economics Departments on applying and testing behavioral change research. They have designed a student-led outreach campaign for first-year students to learn about sustainability lifestyle choices and are assessing different approaches.

In a partnership with Efficiency Vermont and three other Vermont colleges, three Middlebury student interns also worked for a year on improving the energy performance of the labs in McCardell Bicentennial Hall with a team of Facilities and Sustainability Integration Office staff, physics faculty, and consultants. They designed and implemented an outreach program to assure that fume hoods, which have a large effect on energy usage, are used efficiently without compromising safety.

Divest from Fossil Fuels

Our commitment to divest the endowment from fossil fuels by 2032 is ahead of schedule. As of December 31, 2020, a preliminary analysis indicates we reduced the amount of fossil fuel related investments by 44 percent, putting us on track to meet our scheduled milestone of 50 percent by 2027. Additionally, we now have $96.4 million in sustainability specific investments, or about 7.5 percent of the total.

Integrate Energy2028 with the Educational Mission of the College

Meeting this goal will be our most impactful for Middlebury’s future. This January, a group of 30 students participated in a course on Carbonomics and Renewable Energy. They used Middlebury’s lands and carbon credits portfolio as a reference for comparison with emerging science, technology, and economic developments related to the tracking and monetization of carbon across the globe. Three projects focused on various aspects of Energy2028 in relation to how the College manages its lands, the reporting and transparency standards it uses, and a focus on how to accelerate a 25 percent reduction in energy consumption. 

Partnerships are also a key element of Energy2028’s educational mission. We supported two collaborative J-term internships for students who worked with History of Art and Architecture faculty, Midd’s Sustainability Solutions Lab, MIT’s Sustainable Design Lab, and the Town of Middlebury’s Energy Committee. Using an MIT platform, our students and faculty worked with town officials to build a model including most of the buildings in Middlebury to evaluate the effectiveness of different energy conservation practices. This is an exciting new tool that can be used to test policies and programs to see what could make the greatest impact for the least cost. Our dream—after Energy 2028—is a wider scale partnership with the town and the county.

Energy2028 is closely connected to the Climate Action Capacity Project—a new grant-funded initiative that is reaching out to all students with new resources and opportunities to build their individual competencies and skills for addressing the climate crisis from their own perspective and majors. A fellowship program currently supports eight students who are working with the project for the academic year.

Please visit the updated Energy2028 website to learn more about these exciting developments.

The climate challenge we face is enormous and it can only be solved by collective action. We can be proud of what we have accomplished and take inspiration from these achievements as we continue to look for innovative ways to reach our goals. 

Yours cordially,

Laurie Patton

Jack Byrne
Dean of Environmental Affairs and Sustainability
Director of Franklin Environmental Center