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Sustainability initiative FAQs

Nov 13, 2008  

What is the sustainability initiative?

This initiative encompasses all university efforts aimed at improving the efficiency of facilities, greening practices and processes, and strengthening the campuswide culture of environmental mindfulness.

Why is it necessary?

Ohio University recognizes the importance of equipping its campuses as well as its students to deal with the energy challenges that lie ahead and the obligation of all institutions and citizens to be good stewards of the environment. A good sustainability plan can both preserve natural resources and curb the growth of utility costs.

Since 2000, the university's average utility use has increased 4.45 percent each year. In fiscal 2008, total utility costs exceeded $11.7 million, up $4 million in just six years. As utility costs continue to rise, there is a very real need for the university to consider energy-saving measures as well as alternative energy sources.

What does the university stand to gain?

Avoided costs brought about through sustainability projects will help ease the financial strain on the university as we cope with economic downturn. Cohesive, campuswide efforts aimed at conservation have the added benefit of creating a healthy, richer campus environment. Ohio University also has an opportunity to enhance its national prominence as a leader in this arena.

How will it help us be better stewards of the environment?

Per House Bill 251, the university is required to reduce energy intensity by 20 percent by 2014 compared to 2004. The university enacted an implementation plan this fall to help meet the requirements of this legislation. Similar steps are being taken to address greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and minimize the university's carbon footprint.

Who is heading up these efforts?

Established in May 2006, the Office of Sustainability oversees the many efforts aimed at resource conservation. Sustainability Coordinator Sonia Marcus oversees the office.

What is the process?

Discussions are under way with offices across campus on how to take a more proactive role in sustainable practices. Through the end of fall quarter, Marcus will be working to gather stakeholder input on the design of the campuswide sustainability planning process. Beginning winter quarter, a steering committee and working groups will form to guide plan development.

What is the timeframe?

The Office of Sustainability is committed to having a sustainability plan developed by fall 2009.

What are the hurdles?

According to Marcus, the greatest challenge to a campuswide sustainability plan is figuring out how to weight the various sustainability goals, which range from energy consumption to strengthening the local economy to fostering a sense of place among Ohio University students. 

How will these initiatives be funded?

Capital budget allocations, performance contracting, revolving energy funds and grant opportunities may be called upon to fund reductions in the university's energy intensity. Funding sources for additional projects will be identified in the campuswide sustainability plan.

What is performance contracting?

Since 1994, the state of Ohio has allowed Ohio's public colleges and universities to hire companies to improve energy efficiency based on the amount of money the company promised to save instead of relying on the typical threshold of giving the job to the lowest and best bidder. This law enables state agencies to enter into performance contracting agreements, which guarantee the performance of the building and the expected savings. Projects can be paid for out of actual energy savings under a performance contract. Ohio University has made use of this option since 1999 to identify and implement conservation and efficiency projects with paybacks through cost avoidance in the five- to 10-year range.

What is a revolving energy fund?

Revolving energy funds involve the allocation of an initial sum of money that finances conservation and efficiency projects with a quantifiable monetary savings or avoidance. A portion of the returns from these projects is reinvested into the fund until the project has been paid off. The money is then reused for more projects. Prior to 1999, Ohio University made use of this strategy by reinvesting savings or the costs avoided in an energy management fund.

What is House Bill 251?

Signed by Gov. Ted Strickland in January 2007, House Bill 251 addresses energy efficiency in state-funded facilities, including higher education institutions. The law requires all state-funded colleges and universities to develop a 15-year plan for implementing energy-efficiency and conservation projects, with the goal of reducing building energy consumption at least 20 percent by 2014, using 2004 as the benchmark year. The bill also mandates the development of energy efficiency and conservation standards for new capital improvement projects that cost more than $100,000 to construct.

At its October meeting, the Board of Trustees approved the university's House Bill 251 Implementation Plan, which seeks to position Ohio University as a leader in building energy efficiency, exceeding the current standards for new construction projects and renovations. It also calls for increased sustainability and engineering personnel in proportion to built spaces and advocates pursuing additional funding opportunities and alternative fuel sources. Education and outreach also will play an essential role, fostering a community-wide energy consciousness.

What is the Presidents Climate Commitment?

The Presidents Climate Commitment is the first effort by any major sector of society to set climate neutrality -- not just a reduction -- as its target. This undertaking by America's colleges and universities is inspired by efforts such as the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, the U.S. Climate Action Partnership and other collective efforts by states and businesses.

As a signatory to the PCC, Ohio University has promised to conduct a comprehensive greenhouse gas emissions inventory of our campus and, within the first two years of signing, to develop a specific plan for achieving climate neutrality, in addition to other short-term actions.

Where can I learn more?

For a list of ongoing projects, visit the Office of Sustainability Web site at www.ohio.edu/sustainability or contact Sustainability Coordinator Sonia Marcus, marcuss@ohio.edu.



Related Links
OHIO focuses on sustainable resolutions:  http://www.ohio.edu/outlook/08-09/November/191.cfm 
Office of Sustainability:  http://www.ohio.edu/sustainability/  

Published: Nov 13, 2008 2:42 PM  

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