Georgetown announced a partnership with ENGIE North America to upgrade the campus’s major utility, distribution, monitoring, and control systems. The partnership aims to help the university lower its energy use intensity by 35 percent and meet its goal of carbon neutrality by 2030. The 50-year agreement will go into effect July 1.
Energy use intensity, or the energy usage per square foot per year, assesses the total amount of energy used by buildings divided by the total gross floor area of the building. ENGIE is a power generator, energy services company, and retail electricity supplier that works with universities and organizations across the country to mitigate the impact of the climate crisis.
Improving the energy use intensity through operational efficiencies would help make the buildings on campus more energy efficient. Ohio State University entered a similar agreement with ENGIE in 2017.
As part of the agreement, ENGIE will assume responsibility for managing the university’s utility systems and work to add capital improvements to Georgetown’s facilities. Projects include implementing smart metering technologies —which collect and record data on the consumption of energy, voltage levels, and other essential information— and beginning a geothermal project on Healy Lawn.
ENGIE will also implement energy conservation programs to help the university meet its sustainability goals, although Georgetown will retain control over decisions relating to upgrades and renovations. “Innovative solutions will be developed through our collaborative program with the campus community and will help us to operate, maintain, and improve campus utility services,” Cécile Prévieu, executive vice president of client solutions at ENGIE, wrote in a statement.
The university has been considering such a partnership since 2019, when key faculty members and administrators met with employees at Georgetown’s central utility plant on campus, which includes the heating and cooling plants, to discuss the possibility of transitioning to private management of these systems.
The agreement comes as part of a larger push by student advocates and the university to switch to more sustainable and renewable energy sources. In February of 2020, Georgetown announced its pledge to divest from fossil fuels by phasing out its investments in publicly traded funds over the next five years and its investments in private funds over the next ten. As a result, the university has stopped new investments into companies whose main business is the exploitation of fossil fuels.
In December of 2020, the university disclosed investments into several companies with a history of extracting fossil fuels and a controversial past with public health and safety. The university noted that the August disclosure is due to the end of their work with an external investment manager; as a result, the university received shares in kind from the companies for the first time this spring, which is when the investments were reported.
Georgetown also committed to obtaining nearly two-thirds of its electricity needs from solar farms in Maryland and New Jersey in a Power Purchasing Agreement (PPA) in November of 2020. While the university halved its greenhouse gas emissions by 2014 with 2006 emissions as the baseline, six years ahead of its target date, the new conservation partnership with ENGIE will allow the university to reduce the energy use intensity as well as the energy efficiency of different buildings across campus. Ideally, the university will achieve its goal of being carbon neutral and water positive by 2030.
The university is likewise continuing its advancement of energy efficiency and sustainability through a search to fill the spot of vice president of sustainability, a position which Lisa Belokur, the associate vice president of facilities operations, currently holds in the interim. The former director, Audrey Stewart, left the office in January of this year, and the only other full-time staff member was redeployed as part of the Redeploy Georgetown program.
“We are excited to partner with ENGIE to accelerate our progress toward aligning with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, integrating sustainability across our functional areas, and becoming a model for how universities and other complex organizations can strengthen their sustainability efforts,” Geoff Chatas, senior vice president and chief operating officer, wrote in a statement released by the university on April 5. “We are confident that ENGIE’s expertise in clean energy management will improve the experience of students, faculty, and the broader Georgetown community.”