Launched in 2009 with a $650,000 grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), UNH’s Energy Efficiency Fund (EEF) has already seen more than $500,000 in energy savings “returns,” including over $250,000 in FY12 alone. The UNH Energy Task Force (ETF) estimates that after a decade, the university will realize about $3 million in energy savings and prevent more than 8,500 metric tonnes of greenhouse gases from being emitted -- the equivalent of over 1,600 passenger vehicles or 19,000 barrels of oil.
“UNH operates with serious financial constraints like so many public universities, but we continue to use creativity and collaboration to push beyond those constraints and model sustainability in everything we do. Our revolving fund was launched two years ago as a vital part of our climate action plan,” says Dr. Tom Kelly, UNH chief sustainability officer and director of the Sustainability Institute at UNH. “By showing that we can do this and make it work we hope to inspire many others to do the same. It’s urgent that these kinds of solutions are embraced by all institutions.”
How the EEF works
The EEF is a “revolving” fund: savings from the energy efficiency projects are estimated using a combination of sub metering and engineering estimates that follow the International Performance Measurement and Verification Protocol. Savings are captured through a System’s Benefit Charge (SBC) included in the utility costs charged to campus units. Thus a slightly higher rate offsets lower consumption due to the energy efficiency improvements and the net impact of funding the EEF on campus units is cost neutral. Gas and electric utility companies recover similar costs from their customers using similar system benefit rate structures. The UNH Energy Office targets an average five-year payback on projects funded. Project selections are approved by the UNH Energy Task Force, which is comprised of administrators, faculty, staff and students from across campus.
The EEF has already invested in many projects, including:
- Efficient lighting retrofits across campus.
- Digital lighting controls in the main library.
- Insulating steam distribution piping.
- Upgrading a lab ventilation system in the engineering building. The building will also see one of the next investments, a passive solar heating system.
- Updated equipment in UNH's cogeneration plant.
- A recently initiated retro-commissioning program which targets 5 to 20 year old energy-intense buildings where we believe returning HVAC systems to peak performance can result in significant efficiency improvements.
How the EEF is part of UNH's Climate Action Plan
As part of UNH’s commitment to climate protection and sustainability more broadly, the EEF helps the university address increasing energy intensity on campus -- or energy used per square foot of building space -- and prevents greenhouse gas emissions. The fund is part of UNH’s climate action plan, WildCAP, and will help UNH meet its American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment obligations.
Billion Dollar Green Challenge
In 2011, UNH joined 32 other colleges and universities to launch a national challenge to invest in revolving funds that finance energy efficiency upgrades on campus. Called the Billion Dollar Green Challenge, the effort is being coordinated by the Sustainable Endowments Institute. As part of the Founding Circle, UNH is the only public institution in New England to take the lead in making this commitment. The challenge is inspired by the exceptional performance of existing green revolving funds, which have a median annual return on investment of 32 percent, as documented by “Greening The Bottom Line,” a report published by the Sustainable Endowments Institute. 33 institutions, including UNH, joined the challenge’s Founding Circle by committing to invest a cumulative total of more than $65 million in green revolving funds. In addition to UNH, Dartmouth College, Green Mountain and Middlebury colleges in Vermont, and Unity College in Maine joined the Founding Circle.
Through the early 2000’s, steady investments in energy efficiency improvements had been made as the campus leveraged its own funds with rebate programs offered by the local utility companies. However, these programs became more restrictive concurrent with UNH investing in a combined heat and power plant to better utilize on-site energy, but which essentially eliminated any remaining eligibility for rebate programs. While renovation and new construction projects continued to require high efficiency lighting, motors and HVAC systems, investment in pure energy efficiency projects stopped and campus energy use intensity (total energy per GSF) started to climb; an unacceptable trend for a campus with a strong culture of being “green.”
Campus energy managers, members of the Sustianability Institute, and the campus Energy Task Force (ETF) recognized that a dedicated funding stream for energy efficiency improvements was needed if the trend was to be reversed and the concept of an Energy Efficiency Fund (EEF) was developed. The fund would invest in energy efficiency improvements and the value of the estimated annual energy savings would be returned to the fund through a surcharge on the utility rate charged to campus units (UNH utilities operate as a cost center and charges campus units for utilities consumed.) This would replenish the fund and allow further investments. However, an initial source of funds needed to be found. After several unsuccessful initiatives, in 2009, UNH was able to secure a $650,000 grant of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds and the EEF was launched.