The Center for Sustainable Infrastructure Blog

Advancing a new sustainable infrastructure paradigm and practice in the Northwest and beyond

The Center for Sustainable Infrastructure Blog

Green Power Partnership in Higher Education

February 9th, 2017 · No Comments · Energy

rhianna_tBy Rhianna Hruska – The Evergreen State College

In 2005, the student-driven clean energy campaign advocated for the creation of a green fee to fully cover renewable energy credits for The Evergreen State College.  A poll was sent to all students, and of the 28% that voted, 91% voted yes on paying for a campus green fee (1).  Evergreen students made it clear that they saw sustainability as a priority.  The passage of the clean energy fee made Evergreen the 2nd higher education institution in Washington state to have a green fee, with Western Washington University being the first.

evergreen-solar

Solar Array at The Evergreen State College (All Photo Credits to Shauna Bittle)

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Partnership, renewable energy certificates (RECs), also known as green tags or renewable energy credits, are issued when one megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity is generated and delivered to the electricity grid from a renewable energy resource.” (2)

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s College and University Green Power Challenge acknowledges higher education institutions that are Green Power Partners.  With 100% of its energy usage covered by renewable energy credits, Evergreen consistently ranks top of the Cascade Collegiate Conference in the challenge (3).  RECs have grown in popularity and many higher education institutions across the nation purchase RECs to offset their electricity usage.  Along with colleges and universities, non-profits and private businesses also purchase RECs to be EPA Green Power Partners.

The Evergreen clean energy fee prompted a conversation about where Evergreen’s RECs would be purchased from.  The college is interested in buying local RECs if the opportunity arises.  Puget Sound Energy (PSE) currently has four wind farm locations in Washington state and a fifth is slated to be built by December 2018.  PSE’s Skookumchuck Wind Energy project would house 52-turbines in the southeast corner of Thurston County and northeast Lewis County4.  These turbines would generate up to 180 megawatts of power (4).  The completion of this wind farm would provide Evergreen with the opportunity to purchase local RECs.

Along with offsetting electricity with renewable energy credits, the clean energy fee is used to fund sustainability projects on campus that promotes Evergreen as a living learning laboratory. One example of a clean energy fee project is the solar array on top of the library building, which has provided research opportunities to students.  The clean energy fund gives the students an opportunity to bring their ideas to life and give back to their campus community.

As dedicated Green Power Partners, higher education institutions have been given the opportunity to be long term models for purchasing renewable energy credits.  The success of the Green Power Partnership program at Evergreen and in other higher education institutions could influence the decisions of other colleges, businesses, and non-profits to commit to the Green Power Partnership.

References:
1.    https://sites.evergreen.edu/cleanenergy/history/
2.    https://www.epa.gov/greenpower/renewable-energy-certificates-recs
3.    https://www.epa.gov/greenpower/college-and-university-challenge
4.    http://www.theolympian.com/news/local/article86670312.html

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