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Archive for the ‘Policy’ Category

By Michele Madia, Director of Sustainability Financing & Strategy, Second Nature
(This article appears in the November, 2012 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

ACUPCC ImplementerNo matter what the outcome of the presidential election, Congress will undoubtedly consider comprehensive tax reform in the New Year. Second Nature, the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) and the National Association of College & University Business Officers (NACUBO) are presenting policy options for changes in tax policy and federal grant programs that would allow colleges and universities to increase operational efficiencies, reduce long-term energy expenses and ultimately contribute to administrative efforts to contain costs.

The report, Higher Education: Leading the Nation to a Safe and Secure Energy Future was released at the ACUPCC Climate

Luther College generates one-third of the electrical power it consumes with a wind generator sited on the bluff overlooking the campus and city.
Photo: Erik Hageness

Leadership Summit in Washington, DC this past summer, explores how the federal government can develop and enhance clean energy incentives and investments specifically for colleges and universities. To publicize the report and proposals, Second Nature hosted a press briefing with higher education reporters. Several college presidents participated in the event with media representatives from the Chronicle of Higher Education and the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). Stories about the report appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education, ClimateWire, and in AACC’s Community College Times.

In early October, Second Nature and NACUBO hosted a meeting with representatives from government relations staff at higher education associations (HEA) and from individual institutions to educate them about the shared effort. David Hales, in his first visit to Washington DC as Second Nature’s new president, participated in the meeting and had the opportunity to connect with key staff from the presidential associations.  The goals for the meeting were to:

  • Educate association colleagues about Second Nature’s work
  • Engage the higher education associations in dialog about the strategic importance of energy issues (HEAs are primarily focused on student aid, access, and research funding)
  • Enlist additional volunteers to participate in meetings going forward

Participants included representatives from: Association of American Universities (AAU), Association of Public Land-grant Universities (APLU), University of California, Irvine, University of Colorado, Ball State University, Portland State University, Michigan State University, University of Washington, University of Pennsylvania, and the University of California Office of the President.

Technical Correction to the Energy Efficient Commercial Buildings Deduction (Section 179D)

Second Nature has been involved in another effort to advocate for public policy initiatives that are consistent with the ACUPCC mission.  We have identified a current legislative issue that would benefit all higher education institutions and all nonprofits that may be considering new construction or building retrofits that generate energy savings.

The specific issue described here in more detail involves a federal tax deduction for energy efficiency projects. Currently nonprofits, including independent colleges and universities are excluded from benefiting from this deduction.  Supporters of an amendment extending the deduction to nonprofits have indicated that letters of support from influential and respected voices addressed to targeted members of Congress would be helpful in getting the amendment added to the “tax extenders bill” during the lame duck session of Congress in November.

Second Nature took action and identified eight signatory institutions in key legislative districts, and requested that presidents send a letter of support to their member of Congress.

Since 2005, there has been a deduction for buildings that meet a certain threshold of energy savings (new construction or renovation).  This is a technology neutral tax incentive that encourages energy conservation by tying the value of the deduction to the actual energy savings generated by the building once it is completed. The deduction may be up to $1.80 per square foot, with qualifying energy efficient improvements in lighting systems, heating, cooling, ventilation, hot water systems, and the building envelope.

To help ensure that governmental owners get the most efficient systems yielding long-term operating savings, Section 179D permits a government building owner (including public institutions) to allocate the 179D deduction to one or more persons “primarily responsible for designing the property,” – this party can include architects, engineers, contractors, environmental consultants, or energy services providers.  The statute does not now allow nongovernmental nonprofits to allocate this deduction, although there is no legislative history indicating that this is intentional.

The benefit to the overall economy from permitting major sectors like higher education and hospitals to allocate the Sec. 179D tax deduction for energy efficiency construction and retrofit projects to the designers, engineers, construction firms, and architects involved with such projects will be considerable. Being able to include such a deduction in building construction or retrofit RFPs should lead to lower bids. Institutions would be incentivizing architects, engineers, and contractors to push the envelope on available energy savings, resulting in lower operating costs for years to come.  There is bipartisan support for the current law because of the savings it can generate and federal agencies have been encouraged to maximize their use of the allocation authority. Extending this benefit to higher education and to hospitals would help to save money in this capital and budget constrained economy, maximize the return on energy efficiency investments, and support the commitments made by ACUPCC institutions to help eliminate operational greenhouse gas emissions.

Second Nature will keep the network informed about both the technical correction to 179D, and about our national policy strategy more broadly. To get involved, or learn more, contact Michele Madia, Director, Sustainability Finance & Strategy mmadia@secondnature.org.

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By Michele Madia, Director, Sustainability Finance & Strategy, Second Nature
(This article appears in the June, 2012 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

The ACUPCC

The National Association of College & University Business Officers (NACUBO), Second Nature and the ACUPCC will release a policy brief report at the ACUPCC Climate Leadership Summit that explores how the federal government can develop and enhance energy efficiency and renewable energy incentives and investments specific to the nonprofit higher education sector.

The higher education sector is well positioned to lead the nation in implementing deep energy efficiency projects and renewable energy technologies. Colleges and universities own and manage thousands of buildings, heat and cool millions of square feet of space, and in many instances, operate their own thermal and electric power generation facilities. According to the latest reports from ACUPCC schools, 104 institutions have secured $195.7 million in outside funding to support their commitment to eliminate their operational greenhouse gas emissions and 158 institutions have implemented energy efficiency and renewable energy projects that have generated savings of $104 million. However, for many colleges and universities financing such projects can be challenging because current government incentives are most often designed for business and industry and not for the tax-exempt sector.

4 kW Solar Array at Appalachian State University. Photo courtesy of Marie Freeman/Appalachian State University

Since the launch of the ACUPCC in 2007, the network has identified financing as a key focus area in enabling signatories, the higher education sector as a whole, and society more broadly, in creating a low-carbon economy.  In 2009, NACUBO in collaboration with Second Nature published “Financing Sustainability on Campus” — a resource detailing a range of financing strategies and options available to campuses. In 2011, the ACUPCC Financing Committee was formed to identify challenges and opportunities related to financing and prioritize efforts of the ACUPCC network in removing financial barriers to implementing sustainability projects on campuses.

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On April 30, 2012, the 3rd Annual Massachusetts Sustainable Economy Conference was presented by Integrative Sustainability & Environmental Solutions (ISES) in Boston, MA. ISES, an environmental consulting initiative led by Crystal Johnson.The conference leveraged a variety of discussions on the community and business practices that cultivate a sustainable economy. Higher education plays a critical role in this conversation as the educational driver which creates meaningful programs for career preparedness, community innovation, and participatory citizenship in order to prepare students to create a sustainable future.

Participants included local and multinational businesses, higher education representatives, chambers of commerce and non-profit organizations.  the daylong conference was divided into three main informational sessions with topics including: Active Citizenship for Sustainable Communities, Principles of Product Stewardship and Supply Chain, Leveraging Diversity and Inclusion in Business, and Emerging Energy Issues and Technologies. The final session for the conference was a full-attendee dialogue on “The Role of Women in Creating a 21st Century Economy.”

In “Active Citizenship for Sustainable Communities,” session leader Pat Stewart, President of the North Country Sustainability Center, discussed NCSC’s shift from what was originally created to provide a community kitchen for local agricultural value-added demands, to a regional hub for practical sustainability practices. Recognizing the increasing demand for, and value of, traditional knowledge, NCSC has expanded its services to offer a wide range of guild workshops on topics ranging from weaving and cheese making to masonry, all of which are offered by local experts, or as Pat noted “older folks who don’t even realize they are experts”. The NCSC model represented a critical dialogue point between “formal” and “informal” educational institutions, modeling from the latter steps towards creating a local economy which can depend on local production as well as preserve an array of increasingly vanishing traditional knowledge.

Alongside the community center and the small business owners attending the conference, Chamber of Commerce leaders discussed different effective partnerships with town/city leaders, other business owners, and local schools. One example of this was the Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce’s partnership with Nexamp to form the Merrimack Valley Clean Energy Partnership (MVCEP). “The Chamber was awarded a $500,000 contract through a competitive bidding process to provide clean energy consulting and energy monitoring to 31 Merrimack Valley companies” and as a result, received the Northeastern Economic Developers Association “Program of the Year” award in 2011.

In addition to the continuing discussions on supply chain management, urban agriculture techniques, and community partnerships, the conference placed a special emphasis on the role of diversity and minorities in the shift towards a sustainable economy. During the final, all-conference dialogue devoted to the role of women in creating the 21st century economy, Jackie VanderBrug discussed the role of gender lens investing at a business and individual level as a critical sustainability lens. Another imperative aspect of this session was the dire need and current process of getting more women in leadership positions, such as the 20% by 20 campaign. Steven Grossman, State Treasurer and Receiver General, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, opening keynote for the session, underscored the role of partnerships as a baseline method for accountability and progressive reform.

As a cross-sector conference, the 3rd Annual Massachusetts Sustainable Economy Conference provided critical points of conversation on a range of sustainable economy intersections, at which the role of education stood out as a strong partnership imperative, and critical point of movement necessary to shift policy and practice throughout Massachusetts communities.

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On April 19th, Eastern Connecticut State University and their Institute for Sustainable Energy hosted the Green Campus Conference to discuss Public Act 11-80. The bill requires the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) to develop a comprehensive State Energy Plan and establish a variety of new programs to promote clean energy and energy efficiency.

DEEP recently launched the Lead-By-Example (LBE) program requiring energy use in State owned and operated buildings to be reduced by 10% by January 1, 2013, and another 10% by January 1, 2018. The LBE program applies to all state agencies, including the facilities within Connecticut’s Higher Education sector, which makes up 50% of the square footage of buildings under the control of state government.  Buildings controlled by the CT Board of Regents constitute 50% of Higher Education and 25% of the Governor’s energy reduction goal.

To achieve the energy reduction targets on CT Board of Regents campuses the following seven actions have been identified:

  1. Establish an Energy and Sustainability Baseline
  2. Participate in the American College and University President’s Climate Challenge (ACUPCC)
  3. Engage Student Organizations in Support of Campus Environmental Sustainability
  4. Identify Projects for Funding through Connecticut’s Lead-by-Example Initiative
  5. Establish a Board of Regent Technical Support and Project Review Team
  6. Develop and Deploy Multiple Project Financing Strategies
  7. Provide O&M and Auditing Training to Facility Maintenance Staff

More information of the CT Board of Regents Green Campus Strategy can be found here.

The conference brought together representatives from all CT Board of Regents institutions including the four Connecticut State Universities, twelve Connecticut Community/Technical Colleges, and Charter Oak State College. More than 80 participants learned about the LBE program and how the State of Connecticut is working to support colleges and universities in achieving the energy reduction goals.

The conference offered two panel sessions:

1.     Financing Green Campus Projects: moderated by Alex Kragie, Special Assistant to the Commissioner, DEEP

Presentations included:

2.     The Latest & Greatest Energy Technology: moderated by William Leahy, Director, Institute for Sustainable Energy

 Presentations included:

  • Eastern’s Green CampusNancy Tinker, Director, Facilities and Management Planning
  • CCSU’s Energy CenterRobert Gagne, Plant Facility Engineer
  • Connecticut’s Demand Response, Monitoring & Analysis Program – Cliff Orvedal & Bob Mancini, EnerNOC
  • CT Energy Efficiency FundRich Steeves, Energy Efficiency Board, Randy Vagnini, Retrofit Programs, Dave McIntosh, Retro-commissioning

Second Nature President Dr. Tony Cortese gave the keynote address, commending the state of Connecticut and the Board of Regents for working together to address energy consumption and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. He also reminded the crowd of the importance of higher education to lead society and prepare graduates for a changing global market economy. Issues of climate and sustainability are about much more than the environment. It is time to stop viewing global challenges as separate, competing, and hierarchical and begin to address them as systemic and interdependent. Colleges and universities can and must develop graduates that can think systemically and begin developing the solutions to transition to a just, healthy, and sustainable society.

Connecticut’s LBE program is a terrific model for other states to reduce energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions. It’s also a terrific model of collaboration for state colleges and universities to work with their state government. DEEP is working on identifying best practices in energy efficiency financing and developing a vetted list of energy service companies to submit RFPs. The CT BOR is establishing a Project Technical Review team to ensure proposals submitted by individual campuses are complete, comprehensive, and fully documented. This will help streamline the decision process for DEEPs Technical Advisory Committee and Project Finance Committee. The BOR is also building the capacity of campus staffs by providing training on energy management and energy auditing. By building internal expertise campuses can operate more efficiently and will be better able to identify areas for further energy savings. For Connecticut, LBE is the key program to making it the most energy efficient state in the nation!

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Photo Credit: Sheryl Gay Stolberg, New York Times

Second Nature’s Advancing Green Building intern Vanessa Santos recently shared her thoughts regarding President Obama’s points on education and clean energy in his 2011 State of the Union address. Vanessa writes:

“President Barack Obama’s 2011 State of the Union address on Tuesday evening inspired optimism that future investments would be made in education, as well as in clean energy technology. Though skeptics can criticize whether the President will be able to hold true to his remarks yesterday evening, his address was successful in noting the connection between sustainable clean energy reform and the need to support higher education, specifically in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education.”

Read Vanessa’s full post on the Campus Green Builder blog, here.

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By Vanessa Santos, Advancing Green Building Intern, Second Nature

Last Tuesday evening at Old South Church in Boston, MA, you couldn’t turn around without seeing bright white signs that read “Put Solar on the White House!”

This is Bill McKibben’s clear and simple message. Mr. McKibben, with the support of 350.org, the students of Unity College, as well as many local and national environmental groups, has successfully brought this message from Maine to Boston, judging by the crowd of people that was present at the church to support the movement on September 7, 2010. The team then continued this ”Solar Road Trip” to disseminate this same message to New York City and eventually to Washington D.C. Hopefully this message will prompt President Obama to take action on 10/10/10, the day when organizations, politicians and people around the world will get to work to mitigate climate change.

Traveling with one of the very solar panels that President Carter put on the White House in 1979 (which Reagan removed during his presidency), Bill McKibben and some Unity College students made their first stop in Boston, as they rallied to get President Barack Obama to return this solar panel, and other donated solar panels, to the roof of the White House.

After some live music from the Boston-based band, Melodeego, and introductions from local groups and organizations, such as Students for a Just and Sustainable Future that are actively involved in this campaign, Second Nature President Dr. Anthony Cortese preceded Bill McKibben with a speech that stressed on the need for higher education institutions to be the leaders in this movement toward a sustainable future and climate neutrality. Dr. Cortese also discussed the momentum that has been created within the higher education sector through the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) for last few years. Second Nature is the lead coordinator of this initiative that has brought more than 670 institutions of higher learning to commit to climate neutrality!

Photos from the event:

Dr. Cortese speaking:

Unity College President Mitch Thomashow and the Solar Song:

Videos courtesy of Melodeego.

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by Don Ryan, Vice President for Policy, Second Nature

Don RyanCollege and university presidents are stepping up to provide leadership on national transportation policy through Second Nature’s 15-member task force, which just released its recommendations to Congress and the Obama Administration. At a Congressional Briefing on April 28, three presidents drew on their institutions’ firsthand experience to highlight the task force’s recommendations: Jamillah Moore of Los Angeles City College, George Dennison of the The University of Montana, and Wim Wiewel of Portland State University.

Higher Education Sector is Crucial to Progress

In the past, higher education as a sector has not recognized its stake in national transportation policy. In fact, colleges and universities cannot achieve deep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions without major changes in federal policy. At the same time, these institutions are crucial to national progress because they serve as test beds for piloting and evaluating innovative transportation strategies and developing new clean technologies.

These institutions are crucial to national progress. They serve as test beds for piloting and evaluating innovative transportation strategies and developing new clean technologies.

Recommendations to Congress

The task force called on Congress to make reducing greenhouse gas emissions a fundamental goal of transportation policy – on a par with mobility and safety. While this may sound like a “no-brainer,” it amounts to a radical change, because historically transportation policy has only given lip service to climate and energy goals.

Noting that our current transportation financing and pricing system is badly broken, the task force urged Congress to adopt carbon-based fees to act as a strong price signal for both the purchase and use of vehicles. Other task force recommendations call for U.S. leadership in vehicle efficiency and clean fuels, expanding transportation options to meet local needs, improving the condition and efficiency of our transportation system, and expanding innovation, research and evaluation.

Higher Education Leaders are Invited to Join the Effort

The task force appointed two Co-Chairs: Judith Ramaley, President of Winona State University, and George Dennison, President of The University of Montana. With support from Second Nature, the task force will be working over the coming months to engage many other higher education leaders to elevate the national policy dialogue about transportation and energy policy.

If you want to join other higher education leaders in making our transportation system more sustainable, please contact Don Ryan, Second Nature’s Vice President for Policy at dryan@secondnature.org.

Read the full news release about the Task Force’s work here.
Read the Task Force’s recommendations (PDF) to Congress and the Obama Administration.

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