Posts Tagged ‘University of California – Irvine’

University of California, Irvine receives Second Nature’s 2nd Annual Climate Leadership Award. Award recipients were recognized at the 5th Annual American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) Summit in Washington, DC on June 23rd, hosted by George Washington University.

UC Irvine’s award-winning sustainability program builds on the University of California’s (UC) comprehensive Policy on Sustainability Practices encompassing Green Building Design, Clean Energy, Climate Protection, Sustainable Transportation, Sustainable Operations, Recycling and Waste Management, Environmentally Preferable Purchasing, and Sustainable Food Services. With the support of Chancellor Michael Drake, Wendell Brase, UC Irvine’s Vice Chancellor for Administrative & Business Services, leads UC’s systemwide Climate Solutions Steering Group and UC Irvine’s Sustainability Committee. Brase is frequently invited to speak at regional and national conferences addressing carbon reduction on university and college campuses.

In 2007, UC committed to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 2000 levels by 2014, 1990 levels by 2020, and net zero emissions as soon as possible. UC Irvine developed its own strategy to achieve these GHG reductions and is on track to meet 2014 and 2020 goals. Since 2007, the campus has reduced CO2e emissions by 34,060 metric tons by employing a Strategic Energy Partnership Program (SEP), on-site renewable energy, transportation demand management, and a Green Building Program. Eight UC Irvine buildings bear the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Gold rating for new construction, the most at any U.S. campus. Staff bring the innovation and commitment instrumental to the success of all of these efforts.

This year, UC Irvine completed Phase I of its SEP, the most far-reaching energy efficiency and conservation program attempted by any California campus. This program resulted in annual savings of 16,000 metric tons of GHG emissions, which will be sustained year after year. UC Irvine is now implementing Phase 2. During the two-year implementation period, the campus expects to save 17 million kWh and 150,000 therms of natural gas, exceeding the benchmark achieved in Phase I. This goal, if achieved, will again surpass the energy-efficiency savings of all other California campuses.


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By Wendell Brase, Vice Chancellor, University of California, Irvine and Chair, University of California Climate Solutions Steering Group
(This article appears in the January, 2011 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)

The ACUPCCWendell Brase

Is your institution lagging compared to colleges and universities you read about when it comes to aggressive energy-saving or renewable energy projects?  (Such projects represent a major fraction of most climate action plans.)  If your energy mix derives primarily from coal or hydro, don’t blame your chief financial officer, who is probably under governing board pressure to maintain fiscal stability despite unprecedented economic conditions.  Suppose that your electricity costs 5 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) and the governing board expects all energy project investments to at least break even.  What can you do?

By contrast, if your electricity costs were nominally 10 cents/kWh and your state has an incentive program that subsidizes energy-retrofit projects, you would probably be installing daylight sensors, “smart lab” controls, constant-volume to variable-volume conversions, “smart” lighting controls and fixtures, and refrigerator and freezer replacements.  But what if your energy cost is 5 cents/kWh and you do not have an incentive rebate program to help underwrite energy projects?

There are energy-retrofit projects that can pay for themselves – that is, yield annual savings that cover borrowing costs – even with 5 cent/kWh electricity.  But first, make certain your assumed energy cost is the time-weighted, marginal cost – not your average cost per kWh.  That is, suppose your institution’s energy bill reflects a 12-month average cost of 5 cents/kWh, but energy-retrofit projects will accrue savings based on the last megawatt-hour purchased.  This latter figure may be closer to 6 or even 7 cents per kWh when time-of-use and demand changes are factored in for the marginal increment that will not be procured due to realized energy savings.

Here is a list of energy-retrofit projects that will usually be cost-effective, recovering their own cost, at an electric cost of 6-7 cents/kWh:

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By Wendell Brase,  Vice Chancellor University of California-Irvine and Chair  of the University of California Climate Solutions Steering Committee

(This article appears in the October, 2010 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)


Every institution has an unfortunate legacy of well-intentioned plans that have died.  Some were announced with great fanfare following a year of committee work, consultant studies, and boardroom proclamations.  Yet, despite the intellectual capital and financial resources invested in these plans, they proved useless — languishing and ignored within a few years, forgotten within half a decade.

Why do some plans transform an institution while others grow stale on the shelf?  Sometimes plans with the most impressive packaging are inherently inadequate, lacking the key ingredients necessary for an organization to move from plan to action:  a goal that is simple and clear, measureable milestones, understandable metrics, and feasible resource expectations.  These fundamentals are even more basic than the best practices highlighted by the Eastern Research Group (in this issue).

Sometimes failure of a plan to prove transformative is not an inherent weakness of the plan, itself, but due to organizational incapacity or resources.  My July column outlined ten critical success factors that predict an organization’s performance.  Item #10 was “Accountability goals and measures that ‘mainstream’ mission-critical problems into annual performance goals and subsequent performance appraisals of line managers.”  This means that any plan, in order to effect change, needs to transition from “staff” to “line.”  This happens when specific, measurable outcomes are written into annual performance objectives of the directors of facilities, construction, parking, transportation, housing, food services, environmental safety, environmental planning, and procurement.  Failure to make the “staff to line” transition negates the value of many plans.

This can affect any plan that aims to be transformative for an institution — including a climate action plan.  CAPs are also under threat because they require a substantial investment extending more than a decade — perhaps decades — at a time when colleges and universities are struggling to survive, or at least not lose ground.

How can we maintain momentum when our governing boards are consumed by concerns about declining revenues, student access and affordability, and looming fiscal nightmares around benefits, investments, and pensions?  They cannot ignore these problems; neither can we.

One thing we can do is concentrate on carbon-reducing actions that are practically cost-free, or self-financing.  This list includes a number of grass-roots changes in institutional culture that can constructively engage students during a time when major investments may have to wait:

  • Eliminate hot water in non-residential lavatories
  • Eliminate hot water from laundromat facilities
  • Label food entrees low/moderate/high carbon at point-of-service
  • Energy Star and EPEAT procurement policies
  • Eliminate sale of bottled water
  • Install thermal barriers for open food coolers
  • Weigh and display dining waste
  • Data center energy audit
  • Enable all computer and office machine sleep features
  • Raise data center(s) thermostat and monitor inlet air temperatures at top-of-rack components
  • Persuade laboratory users to close fume hoods when not in use
  • Disaggregate parking fees embedded in housing rents (providing substantial discounts to those who forego a car on campus)
  • Year-end donation program to avoid dumpsters heading to landfills when students move out
  • Community gardens near where students live and eat
  • Charge extra for non-Energy Star residential refrigerators
  • Eliminate ice dispensed for beverages
  • Extend energy-awareness programs to water awareness — showering, shaving, laundry, dishwashing, etc.
  • Cooking classes to shift students away from microwave products, fast foods, vending machines, etc.
  • Print official documents double-sided on recycled, recyclable paper
  • Charge for disposable beverage cups or offer a discount to those who carry a cup
  • Replace 28-32 watt fluorescent lamps with 25 watt low-mercury tubes (all fixtures with suitable ballasts)
  • Change the culture that results in new buildings while the Friday class schedule is a fraction of the M-TH schedule
  • Change the student life environment that results in a weekend exodus, underutilizing the campus while students drive home
  • Change the culture that favors building new space in order to avoid sharing space, and that favors new construction over re-purposing existing space
  • No-idle policy for all campus-operated vehicles
  • Flow-restrictors on all lavatory faucets
  • Tray-less dining
  • Replace all stairway lighting fixtures with low-wattage bilevel fixtures
  • Replace all parking structure lighting with bilevel fixtures

Finally, during this period when the only positive fiscal news is the low cost of capital, expand campus housing by taking advantage of low financing and construction costs.  Converting commuters to residents will make a big dent on your campus’ carbon footprint.  And speed up your energy retrofit program in order to complete projects before the cost of capital increases from current favorable levels.

An important strategy to keep in mind during this fiscally-constrained period is to manage expectations for the next phase of your climate action plan, when major investments will be required.  Since many CAPs focus on conservation, efficiency, and behavioral actions as initial priorities, large-scale renewable energy, offsets, and other high-investment actions will characterize later stages of implementation.  We need to manage this expectation.

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by Wendell Brase, Vice Chancellor, University of California, Irvine and Chair, University of California Climate Solutions Steering Group
(This article appears in the July, 2010 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)


During the past three years I have served in the roles of both Chief Business Officer (CBO) and ACUPCC Implementation Liaison at the University of California, Irvine.  In this dual role I have recognized certain factors critical for attaining success in implementing climate action plans.  In this first of four articles to be published over the next twelve months, I will describe two basic tools that can determine whether your organization and key stakeholders are adequately prepared to move forward in implementing solutions to the complex problem of attaining institutional climate-neutrality.


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