The College's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions dropped 16 percent between fiscal year (FY) 2008 and FY 2011, according to reports released today.
The reports—an annual update on GHG emissions and the first of what will be biennial updates to the 2009 Climate Neutrality Implementation Plan—were accompanied by a statement from President Barry Mills encouraging the campus to help the College achieve its goal of carbon neutrality by 2020.
In FY 2011, the College produced 16,085 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), down from the 19,153 metric tons in FY 2008.
The reports divide the College's GHG emissions into three scopes. Scope 1, which comprises onsite fuel combustion, College vehicle use, and fugitive refrigerants, is by far the largest source of GHGs. Onsite fuel combustion alone generates 54 percent of the total emissions.
The annual amount of fuel combustion is largely dictated by the severity of Maine winters. According to the annual reporwt on GHG emissions, FY 2011 was 7 percent colder than FY 2008, a temperature drop that resulted in an almost 4 percent, or 328 metric ton, increase in FY 2011 fuel combustion-related emissions.
"A lot of our progress is dependent on weather," said Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration Katy Longley. "We're in New England, and until that great new discovery comes out that we don't have to use fossil fuels, we are going to have to use fossil fuels," she said.
Though the College does not have a projection for the amount of fuel combustion this winter, Director of Finance and Campus Services Del Wilson said that, "at least from a budget perspective, we've been planning for it to be similar to last year,"
To reduce the carbon emissions generated through heating, the College has continued to convert 36 of its 38 satellite buildings from No. 2 heating oil to natural gas, following the modification of its central heating plant.
"There's approximately 30 percent less carbon, less CO2, associated with natural gas," said Wilson.
If the College had not made these conversions, the Scope 1 emissions for FY 2011 would have been 136 metric tons higher, according to the summary report.
Over the summer, the buildings that line Bath Road—Ham House, Riley House, Edward Pols House, and Copeland House—were converted to use natural gas. At this point, about 50 percent the satellite buildings use natural gas. It remains to be decided which will be converted next, though Wilson said that he expects all of them will be converted by 2015.
Scope 2 emissions, which are produced from purchased electricity, were 4,968 metric tons in 2011, a 32 percent decrease from the 7,264 metric tons released in FY 2008. According to the report, the reduction is primarily due to an increase in greener power plants in Maine as well as energy-efficient lighting upgrades on campus.
Scope 2 emissions will be further reduced this winter by the cogeneration project in the central heating plant where a new back-pressure steam turbine generator will produce 1.65 million kilowatt hours of electricity each year.
"The cogeneration in the central heating plant I would say is a really big deal because it should reduce our electricity usage by 10 percent," said Longley. "We'll basically be making 10 percent of our own electricity this winter."
According to the updated Implementation Plan, the College is also investigating opportunities to address the emissions from the Leroy Greason Pool, the largest consumer of hot water on campus. Solar panels installed on top of Thorne Dining Hall—the second biggest user—are currently providing 50 percent of the energy used to heat its water.
According to the reports, FY 2011's Scope 3 emissions—those caused by faculty and staff travel and commuting, transmission line losses from electricity usage, and waste disposal—were reduced by 39 percent, or 1,100 metric tons, from those generated in FY 2008.