Bowdoin's Climate Commitment Advisory Committee (CCAC) has created a plan to become carbon neutral by 2020, following through with its 2007 pledge for carbon neutrality. The College will present a draft of its Climate Neutrality Implementation Plan to the Board of Trustees during Homecoming Weekend, then revise and submit a final version in November.
According to the draft of the Blueprint for Carbon Neutrality in 2020, an overview of the full plan, the College will aim for carbon neutrality primarily by purchasing renewable energy credits (RECs) to offset its carbon emissions, while also striving for long-term reductions. The plan also accounts for factors beyond its control, such as improvements in fuel efficiency for employee commuters and greater power grid efficiency in transfering energy.
To reduce its own-source carbon emissions, the College plans to install new energy efficient lighting and appliances, upgrade to a cogeneration facility in the heating plant, replace the single-pane windows in Coles Tower and Hawthorne-Longfellow Library, and replace the Coles Tower elevator by 2020. The College also plans to switch to an all-hybrid vehicle fleet, install large solar energy systems at Farley Field House and the Brunswick Naval Air Station, and increase efficiency standards in building construction or renovation.
Despite the large cost to implement many of these changes, the CCAC has suggested that annual operating budget savings and allocations, fundraising, grants, and long-term debt can help fund its energy saving initiatives.
The carbon-neutrality plan is a result of Mills's 2007 pledge to the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), which was made by leaders of more than 640 colleges and universities in efforts to become carbon neutral and to incorporate sustainability measures on campuses across the country. The CCAC, comprised of Bowdoin faculty, staff, trustees and students, has done extensive research to formulate the plan, and will update it every two years to reflect changes and improvements in technology and strategy in order to maximize efficiency.
The blueprint details five different parts of the College's carbon neutrality commitment: Bowdoin's current carbon footprint, what the College must do to become carbon neutral by 2020, the measures the College will take to reduce its own-carbon usage, the steps the College will take to incorporate environmental literacy into academic programs, and the costs involved with erasing Bowdoin's carbon footprint. It also includes Bowdoin's Environmental Mission Statement, which states that the College community must recommit itself to "environmental awareness and responsibility, and to actions that promote sustainability on campus and in the lives of [its] graduates."
Bowdoin's current carbon footprint
The CCAC measured Bowdoin's greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and "accounts for the six greenhouse gases specified by the Kyoto Protocol and uses the global warming potential of each gas to present results in a common unit: carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e)." According to the committee's blueprint, Bowdoin emitted approximately 24,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2008—the amount of electricity used by 3,329 homes in one year. The largest source of Bowdoin's emissions came from the consumption of electricity.
The report states that more than a third of these emissions "were derived from on-campus sources, such as heating, certain refrigerants, and College-owned vehicles." The remaining emissions were created by off-campus activities associated with the College, including travel and waste disposal.
However, Bowdoin's 2008 carbon footprint reflects a significant improvement in energy efficiency—since 1970, the College's fuel consumption has decreased by 50 percent. This improvement is the result of campus sustainability initiatives that include the conversion of heating systems from oil to natural gas, clean transportation alternatives, and the use of green building practices in new and renovated buildings.
In addition, Bowdoin has offset 100 percent of its emissions associated with electricity usage since 2006 by purchasing RECs, or greener power generated by renewable sources such as wind, hydroelectric and solar energy.
The College's continued purchase of RECs will constitute 41 percent of its plan to achieve carbon neutrality.
Decreasing own-source emissions through electricity conservation, physical plant operations, fuel switching, development of onsite renewables, energy improvements in new construction and renovated buildings, and behavioral changes among faculty, staff, and students will further reduce the College's emissions by 28 percent.
Power grid improvements will comprise seven percent of the College's overall carbon reduction by 2020. This part of the College's plan relies on Maine laws regarding renewable energy that are making the power grid "less carbon intensive over time."
Commuting improvements, including the expected reduction of emissions from employee travel based on "new corporate average fuel-economy (CAFE) standards passed by the federal government" will reduce the College's emissions by one percent.
The remaining 23 percent will be "addressed through the adoption of new technologies and the purchase of additional renewable energy credits or appropriate carbon offsets."
On-campus measures to reduce carbon emissions
The College plans to replace many of its existing facilities to make them more energy efficient, according to the Blueprint.
The oldest boiler at the central heating plant will be replaced in 2011, all windows in Coles Tower and Hawthorne-Longfellow Library will be replaced by more efficient thermal panes in 2016, and the elevators in Coles Tower will be replaced in 2019. The new Gen2 elevators will "use half the electricity of a conventional elevator and capture and reuse energy that is associated with the braking process."
By converting its central heating plant from oil to natural gas, greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced by 1,000 tons of CO2e per year, and further savings would be achieved by converting 51 other campus buildings to natural gas. The College will also convert its entire fleet of vehicles—currently 61 cars, vans, and trucks—to hybrids, reducing emissions by 156 tons of CO2e annually.
The blueprint also outlines potential construction projects that would greatly reduce the College's carbon emissions.
A solar electricity system "installed on land at the Brunswick Naval Air Station that the College may acquire" would generate enough clean energy to offset 2,000 tons of CO2e annually, while the construction of a "6,300-square-foot solar array on the roof of Farley Field House" would offset 76 tons of CO2e per year.
Behavioral changes in the Bowdoin community are also part of the carbon-neutral plan. The adoption of energy saving habits and reduced personal energy usage by Bowdoin community members is integral to becoming carbon neutral, according to Coordinator for Sustainable Bowdoin Keisha Payson.
For example, in addition to the yearly dorm competition for reduced energy (which, according to the report, may be accompanied by a live feed of energy use in the future), Payson hopes to reach out to the Bowdoin community this year by targeting computer use and the use of electronics that plug in. While overall energy use has declined at the college, electricity use increases incrementally each year.
Because of the economic downturn, the College has decided to put new major capital projects on hold and to keep operating costs flat through 2011. Energy-savings and emissions-reducing initiatives must fulfill the requirement of generating operating budget savings, be funded through existing budgets, or have external sources of funding.
The College is currently taking on long-term debt to finance the boiler replacement and a cogeneration project at the central utility plant, and recently partnered with a lighting company to test new LED technology around campus. Bowdoin is also considering contracting with an Energy Service Company (ESCo), which would guarantee energy savings on a performance-contracting basis and would provide third-party funding.
The Buck Center for Health and Fitness now makes use of innovative lighting systems that incorporate motion sensors and night settings.