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Campus to sell carbon credits to Chevrolet

INSIDE ILLINOIS, June 5, 2014 | [ Email | Share ]

Because it has dramatically reduced its carbon dioxide emissions in the past several years, the U. of I. is selling an estimated 150,000 metric tons of certified carbon credits to Chevrolet, which is retiring them on behalf of the environment.

“Our campus has taken a significant first step in reducing its carbon footprint,” said plant biology professor Evan DeLucia, the director of the university’s Institute for Sustainability, Energy and Environment. “Chevrolet has rewarded these positive steps by joining with campus leadership to provide more than $1 million to help the campus achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.”

The campus goals in the 2010 Illinois Climate Action Plan are to reduce building-related greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent by 2015; 30 percent by 2020; 40 percent by 2025; and 100 percent by 2050. Professor Ben McCall, the institute’s associate director for campus sustainability, said the campus is on track to easily surpass its 2015 goal. 

“Our Facilities and Services group has done truly amazing work in recent years to lower our emissions,” said McCall, a professor of chemistry.

F&S has retrocommissioned more than 50 campus buildings to improve heating and air conditioning systems and utilized Energy Performance Contracting. As a result of this and other energy-efficiency activities, the campus’s equivalent carbon dioxide emissions – a calculation of all greenhouse gases (such as methane and sulfur) converted to equivalent CO2 – decreased annually from 2008 to 2012.

“Turning a university’s energy-efficiency progress into carbon credits enables them to reinvest in even more clean energy technologies,” said David Tulauskas, General Motors’ sustainability director. “Chevrolet is supporting the ingenious ways people are reducing carbon and spreading the word about the benefits of a clean energy future.”

Although actual figures will not be determined until campus carbon credits are verified by an independent agency and certified by the Verified Carbon Standard, the campus expects to transfer about 150,000 tons of reduction from fiscal years 2012-14 to the Chevrolet initiative.  Between the funding from Chevrolet and matching funds provided by campus leadership, the final amount allocated for new reductions in carbon emissions is likely to exceed $1 million.

“The funds will be held at the campus level, and the institute will work with F&S to allocate them,” McCall said. “They will be earmarked to enable additional projects that will further drive down carbon emissions on campus. We want to go the next mile in our iCAP goals.”

Chevrolet helped develop the methodology by which campuses can earn money for certain upgrades that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It is part of the brand’s carbon reduction initiative to purchase up to 8 million tons of carbon credits from a variety of clean energy projects and technologies in communities across the United States. The nonprofit Bonneville Environmental Foundation works on behalf of Chevrolet to manage the transactions.  

The agreement with Illinois is Chevrolet’s largest college project investment to date and its first with a Big Ten university. The foundation is retiring the carbon credits for the benefit of the environment, meaning they will not be used to offset emissions related to specific Chevrolet operations or products – or those at any other site.

“As a campus, we need to do our part to eliminate emissions of CO2 into the atmosphere, which is having catastrophic global effects,” McCall said. “But our reach can be so much larger than just our own emissions. We want to be an example to the world and teach our students how to go about emission reductions so other campuses, companies, governments and more can implement these sorts of changes the world over.” 

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