UNH has 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 and was announced Oct. 11, 2011, at the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education conference in Pittsburgh.
Revolving funds support energy efficiency upgrades, then capture savings from the avoided energy costs and reinvest those savings into additional efficiency projects. Launched in 2009 with a $650,000 grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), UNH’s Energy Efficiency Fund has already seen more than $200,000 in energy savings “returns.” UNH’s Energy Task Force 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.
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.
“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 Tom Kelly, UNH chief sustainability officer and director of the UNH Sustainability Academy. “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.”
“We’re transforming energy efficiency upgrades from perceived expenses to high-return investment opportunities,” says Mark Orlowski, executive director of the Sustainable Endowments Institute, which is coordinating the challenge along with 13 partner organizations. “University of New Hampshire should be commended for rising to the challenge and investing in energy efficiency improvements on campus.”
In advance of today’s launch, 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. (See complete list in the appendix.)
UNH’s Energy Efficiency Fund has invested in efficient lighting retrofits across campus; digital lighting controls in Dimond Library; insulating steam distribution piping; and upgrading a lab ventilation system in Kingsbury Hall, home of UNH’s engineering departments. Kingsbury will also see one of the next investments, a passive solar heating system. Projects are chosen by the UNH Energy Task Force, comprised of faculty, staff and students from across campus.
Guided by a 34-member expert advisory council, the Billion Dollar Green Challenge offers technical assistance, best practices sharing, access to an advanced web-based tool for managing green revolving funds, peer institutions' project-specific data and invitations to specialized webinars and conferences. The Billion Dollar Green Challenge has received financial support from the David Rockefeller Fund, HOK, John Merck Fund, Kresge Foundation, Merck Family Fund, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Roy A. Hunt Foundation, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Partnership, and the Wallace Global Fund. Visit www.GreenBillion.org for more information.
The Sustainable Endowments Institute was founded in 2005 as a special project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. The Cambridge-based nonprofit organization has pioneered research and education to advance sustainability in campus operations and endowment practices.
The University of New Hampshire, founded in 1866, is a world-class public research university with the feel of a New England liberal arts college. A land, sea, and space-grant university, UNH is the state's flagship public institution, enrolling 12,200 undergraduate and 2,300 graduate students. UNH is home to the oldest endowed sustainability program in U.S. higher education, the Sustainability Academy. Visit www.sustainableunh.unh.edu to learn more.
APPENDIX: Billion Dollar Green Challenge - Founding Circle institutions
Agnes Scott College
Arizona State University
Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus
California Institute of Technology
George Washington University
Georgia Institute of Technology
Green Mountain College
Mars Hill College
Oregon State University
St. Lawrence University
Thompson Rivers University
University of Arizona
University of British Columbia
University of Minnesota
University of New Hampshire
University of Oregon
Weber State University
Western Michigan University