URI was among the first institutions to join the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) when former President Robert Carothers signed on in 2007. The ACUPCC is a national network of almost 700 colleges and universities that have committed to achieving eventual climate neutrality and integrating sustainability into the curriculum. Climate neutrality is defined by the ACUPCC as “having no net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, to be achieved by eliminating net GHG emissions, or by minimizing GHG emissions as much as possible, and using carbon offsets or other measures to mitigate the remaining emissions.”
The President’s Council on Sustainability enlisted the URI Energy Fellows to update the University’s greenhouse gas inventory, and subsequently recommend projects that would decrease campus emissions. Based on the Energy Fellows’ work, URI will aim to achieve reduction targets of 2005 levels by 2015, 45% below 2005 levels by 2020, and 50% below 2005 levels by 2050. These reduction targets are based on conservative estimates of emissions savings for all analyzed projects and policies described in the URI Climate Action Plan (CAP) plan, taking into consideration time for project development.
It is important to note that the CAP is intended to be a dynamic plan that will serve as a framework for URI’s ongoing efforts towards carbon neutrality. It is an adaptive strategy that will inform the process rather than provide a prescriptive plan. With constant improvements in energy efficiency and alternative energy technologies, and because of ever-changing economic conditions, forecasting an exact path to climate neutrality is unrealistic.
To meet the emissions reduction goals, an array of conservation, efficiency, renewable energy, and transportation projects were studied and recommended by the Energy Fellows.
Most conservation projects described in the CAP require the help of the entire campus community to make them successful. Encouraging computer users to shut down, rather than set it to “hibernate” or “sleep” mode, can help the University reduce emissions. On average, a desktop computer uses 100 watts per hour and its monitor uses 4 watts per hour. We can also help reduce emissions by adjusting the temperature setting in our buildings. Raising the building temperature just a few degrees during the summer, instead of setting the air conditioning units to significantly chill the interior, helps conserve energy. Likewise, in the winter, lowering the building temperature to avoid heating the building to warmer-than-needed conditions is an effective conservation measure that campus building occupants can engage in.
The equipment on campus can become more efficient by implementing projects that help conserve energy. For example, the average vending machine can consume anywhere from 3,000-4,000 kWh per year. A VendingMiser® or SnackMiser® is a combined motion and thermal sensorused to shut down the light and compressor in a vending machine when the machine is not in use. These products have the potential to reduce a machine’s electrical consumption by 48% and 58% respectively, and do not have any installation or expected annual costs. In addition to installing VendingMisers, vending machines can be partially de-lamped for added savings.
All of these projects are described in greater detail in the most recent version of the URI Climate Action Plan