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.
Achieving 100 Percent Renewable Energy Sources
We are making significant progress toward our goals in electricity and heating. When a five-megawatt solar project on South Street Extension comes online in early 2023, it will supply nearly 40 percent of our electricity use. We also will add renewable natural gas from an anaerobic digester at a nearby family farm to our existing biomass system for heating the campus over the next few years. This step will move us very close to 100 percent renewable energy for heating.
Construction of a five-megawatt solar array is underway on South Street Extension in Middlebury. It is expected to be in operation in early 2023 and will provide 40 percent of the College’s electricity. Current solar projects provide about 10 percent. The rest of our electricity is provided by Green Mountain Power. Their commitment to supplying their customers with all renewable electricity by 2030 will play a key role in achieving our goal of 100 percent renewable electricity.
A renewable natural gas anaerobic digester project, completed in 2021, will help us reach our goal of heating our campus with 100 percent renewable fuel, along with our biomass heating system, which uses wood chips as fuel.
The digester converts manure and food waste to methane, which is cleaned and put into a pipeline for distribution to the College and other customers. Methane traps heat in the atmosphere at a rate many times more than carbon dioxide does. This project captures methane before it is emitted into the air from manure lagoons and decomposing food waste and uses it for heating. The process converts the methane to carbon dioxide and significantly reduces the impact on climate warming.
The digester also improves water quality by separating phosphorus from the manure, which keeps it from being indiscriminately spread on farm fields where it could run into waterways before it is absorbed into the soil.
Reducing Energy Use by 25 Percent
Achieving a 25 percent reduction in energy usage by 2028 is a challenging goal that requires both systemic and individual responses. Between our baseline year of 2018 and fiscal year 2021, we reduced overall consumption by 10 percent thanks to a number of measures, including the following:
- Energy efficiency assessments and upgrades at McCardell Bicentennial, Munroe, and Warner Halls.
- New metering and point-of-use smart controls in buildings to conserve energy.
- Detection and repairs to the steam distribution lines on campus.
- LED lighting installation.
In smaller buildings, we also will convert oil furnaces to gas furnaces that use the renewable natural gas from the biodigester.
Building Upgrades, Steam, and Lighting
We have conducted energy assessments of 51 campus buildings and taken the following steps:
McCardell Bicentennial Hall
- We have set a target of 25 percent reduction in electrical and thermal energy use in our laboratories and are achieving this through measures that include upgrades and fume hoods for testing new strategies to reduce ventilation demand when labs are empty.
- We retrofitted the labs with motion sensors that detect occupancy and reduce the electricity demand of the rooms when not occupied.
- We also have discovered how to run the chillers for the building more efficiently. This work provided three student interns with an opportunity to work with College staff, faculty, and consultants to analyze and implement changes.
Munroe and Warner Halls
Recent renovations to Munroe and Warner included energy retrofits that will significantly reduce those buildings’ energy usage. We are tracking this with new meters and equipment. At Warner, new high-efficiency electric heat pumps are the primary source of heat and air conditioning.
New Metering and Point of Use Smart Controls
We are also phasing in a new “point of use” heating and cooling concept whereby people need to “engage” their office space for comfort control. For example, in Munroe and Warner occupants will push a button when entering their space to raise or lower the heating/cooling setpoint from an “unoccupied” setting that reduces energy use when no one is using the space.
Detection and Repairs to the Steam Distribution Lines on Campus, LED Lighting Installation
Most of our buildings are heated with steam generated at the biomass plant and circulated to buildings by an underground pipe system. We installed or replaced steam meters, insulated steam pipes, and repaired leaks and other deficiencies. This will save us about 5 percent of energy losses.
We have replaced about 20 percent of lighting with LEDs and will continue this process across campus. We are also replacing most failed lights with LEDs.
Electric Powered Equipment and EV Charging Stations
We are testing and replacing combustion engines, including in lawn-mowing equipment, with electric alternatives and planning more EV chargers on campus over the next couple of years.
Divesting from Fossil Fuels
Divestment Goal: Our fossil fuel divestment goal is well on track for our scheduled phaseout of all such investments by 2033. At the end of 2021, 3 percent ($49.6 million) of the endowment was in fossil-fuel-related investments, representing an 11 percent reduction since 2018. Another relevant portion of the endowment is the amount in sustainability related investments. At the end of 2021, that amount was 14.3 percent ($241 million).
Our fossil fuel divestment goal is well on track for our scheduled phaseout of all such investments by 2033. At the end of 2021, 3 percent ($49.6 million) of the endowment was in fossil fuel related investments, representing an 11 percent reduction since 2018.
Another relevant portion of the endowment is the amount in sustainability related investments. At the end of 2021, that amount was 14.3 percent ($241 million).
Environmental, Social, and Governance Related Investing: We are working with our endowment manager to provide insight to the College community about our sustainability investments and the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) policies that guide them. We are developing a report format that will be publicly available and will provide a more detailed look at these aspects of our endowment.
Integrating Energy2028 into Our Educational Mission
Using our educational mission as a foundation and providing resources to prepare our students to address the challenges of climate change is an ongoing goal of Energy2028 that extends across the institution. Here are some of the major steps we took during the past year to achieve that goal.
- A critical goal of Energy2028 is to provide our students with a comprehensive understanding of the climate crisis and how they can address it. The Climate Action Capacity Project (CACP) identified over 200 courses that examine these topics from various perspectives. CACP also engaged 18 Climate Action Fellows this past year and will have 15 new fellowships for students starting this summer.
- The September 2021 Clifford Symposium “Radical Implications: Facing a Planetary Emergency” organized by the CACP and a broad-based consortium focused on responding to climate change. It was well attended by a wide range of active participants, in person and online.
- The Vermont Center for Behavioral Science Research on Climate and the Environment was launched this year with Energy2028 funding from the Provost’s Office.
- The Center for Careers and Internships (CCI) and CACP produced the “Exploring Careers in the Green Economy” series, with 17 alumni interviews.
- MiddData and Energy2028 worked together to translate and make data accessible via a new campus energy webpage, which will develop further into a portal to a wider variety of campus-related energy data.
- More than 30 faculty participated in an April 30 Worldwide Climate Justice Teach-In by bringing climate change topics into their courses across numerous disciplines.
- The Sustainability Solutions Lab (SSL) and history of art and architecture program supported winter term interns who worked with the Addison Climate Economy Action Center and collected data to create townwide building energy models for Bristol and other nearby towns. The MIT sustainable architecture program and Zach Berzolla ’18 provided technical support and the modeling platform. This modeling will be further refined by SSL interns over the summer.
- SSL interns and history of art and architecture students have been working with Facilities staff and others on how to transition from our LEED sustainable design and construction standards to the Living Building Challenge, which prioritizes a more holistic and comprehensive sustainability approach for our buildings and the campus at large.
- Internship and fellowship opportunities were offered through CCI, CACP, SSL, Projects for Peace, Center for Community Engagement (CCE), and Innovation Hub, among others.
- We launched the Middlebury Climate Change Semester at Monterey in January with seven students who immersed themselves in the extraordinary setting, resources, programs, and centers of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies and the Monterey Peninsula.
- Through our ongoing partnership with Planet Forward, we brought three Middlebury students to the organization’s summit in April. Two of our students were finalists in the Planet Forward Storyfest April 2022.
Establishing an Equity and Justice Project Framework
The Energy2028 Steering Committee has drafted an energy justice framework and assessment tool to guide recommendations and decisions related to Energy2028 implementation and will begin circulating the draft for feedback this fall to the SGA, various student groups, and senior leadership.
Over the summer, interns at the Sustainability Solutions Lab will work with Environmental Affairs and Communications staff to prepare a series of communications pieces for this fall to help broaden and deepen awareness about Energy2028. We look forward to sharing more then.