Since 2009, Georgetown has been purchasing green energy as part of a larger initiative to reduce the University’s carbon footprint. Because of Georgetown’s work in creating a more environmentally friendly campus, in February the Environmental Protection Agency Green Power Partnership awarded the university membership in the Green Power Leadership Club.
“We are very proud to receive this recognition, which reflects Georgetown’s ongoing commitment to sustainability,” said Robin Morey, Vice-President of Planning and Facilities Management. “Georgetown now ranks fourth among universities in the nation for green power and thirteenth among all reporting businesses, municipalities, and institutions nationwide.”
The EPA recognizes organizations with this award when they meet or exceed a minimum percentage of green power use that corresponds to their purchased electricity. This green energy can only come from eligible renewable resources such as solar, wind, geothermal, biogas, biomass, and low impact hydroelectric sources. Georgetown purchases this energy through renewable energy certificates, which ensure the power flowing into outlets and light bulbs on the Hilltop comes from renewable sources.
“We achieved this award by purchasing over 113 million kilowatt hours of Green-e certified renewable energy certificates—equal to 109 percent of our electricity use on the Main, Medical and East campuses,” wrote Georgetown Sustainability Coordinator Audrey Stewart, in an email to the Voice. “We were able to achieve greater than 100 percent because Georgetown also owns the environmental attributes for some power that is supplied by the university to the MedStar hospital.”
Although Georgetown has been purchasing green energy since 2009, the university has only just recently begun to increase campus sustainability by making green power the standard for university electricity to increase.
“Green-e certified RECs for 100 percent of Georgetown’s electrical load is a key requirement of our procurement process,” said Xavier Rivera, Director of Utilities and Energy Programs at Georgetown.
Although Georgetown has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by a significant amount, the University still wants to do more to address this issue.
“The University has reduced our greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent since 2006, and we are committed to cutting our carbon footprint in half by 2020,” Morey said.
Buying green energy, however, is not the only method Georgetown is using to reduce its carbon footprint. “We also try to [upgrade] the equipment we have and make it more energy efficient,” Morey said. “We try to manage the University demand for energy to have programs that reduce the electrical requirements as it is used.”
The University has also teamed up with student groups like Georgetown Energy to make the campus more environmentally friendly.
“We recently collaborated with the students in Georgetown Energy who helped install the solar cells, so that is a program that shows we are committed to the goal of energy sustainability, and that is another way we are doing many multifaceted things to increase sustainability,” Morey said.
Yet despite Georgetown’s efforts to increase energy sustainability on campus, the administration has yet to respond to GU Fossil Free’s letter asking the University to begin a policy of divestment from fossil fuel companies. When asked if the administration’s lack of response to Fossil Free and the Georgetown push for sustainability conflict, Morey believed that divestment could be a part of sustainability but the University does not believe that should be the only way to promote green energy policy.
“Our objective is to take a holistic approach. We are doing some of the more common sustainable things such as recycling, green cleaning products, green energy, reduction in inefficiency gains and use of energy,” Morey said. “Obviously, divestment could be one of those approaches as well, but we want to look at it from an overall perspective.”
Morey also thinks sustainability should include social justice programs and initiatives. “We are also looking at social justice as part of a sustainability program and how that ties to living wages, so we do not look at it as one individual piece,” he said. ”By applying sustainability in many ways, we can have the proper outcomes for the community.”
Georgetown has many plans for furthering its goal of green energy sustainability, including the creation of an Office of Sustainability to find new ways to implement green energy policy.
“As for what is next in sustainable energy, we are excited to help switch on Solar Street, Georgetown’s first solar panels on campus townhouses, later this spring,” Stewart said. “And in accordance with new District Law, we are currently benchmarking Georgetown’s buildings of 100,000 sq. ft. or larger on their energy performance in the EPA’s Energy Star Portfolio Manager tool, which will provide us with a powerful data set to help identify and prioritize future opportunities.”
Although the University has made attempts to reduce its carbon footprint, it realizes that students and faculty must take initiative.
“I think demand-side management is an area we can really manage,” Morey said. “‘If I leave the room I should shut the lights off.’ These very small things cost no money, but they can have a significant payback.”