The UI spends $100 million annually on energy, and adopting an energy conservation policy is the university’s best opportunity for obtaining the resources needed for academic programs, faculty salaries and other initiatives, said UI President B. Joseph White and Lawrence Eppley, chair of the UI Board of Trustees, when the board met Nov. 14 in Springfield.
The trustees approved a universitywide energy policy that aims to reduce energy consumption and cost by eliminating waste and increasing energy efficiency in buildings, measure energy consumption through use of meters, and reduce reliance on fossil fuels through use of alternatives such as geothermal, biomass and solar energy.
Michael Tanner, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at UIC, and Urbana Provost Linda Katehi co-chaired the Energy Task Force that created the policy.
Key components of the conservation efforts will be providing more reliable projections of utilities costs, creating awareness and educating students as well as the broader community about energy and sustainability issues, Tanner said.
“An important element of that will be providing incentives,” Tanner said. “We feel that over the past year there have not been enough incentives provided at the level decisions are made with respect to energy, and by changing the way the costs are attributed, the way they’re put into budgets, and the programs that we announce, we can provide incentives for people to think actively about reducing energy consumption.”
Using the university policy as a framework, each campus is to work with the university administration to develop a budgeting and reporting system that establishes cost-management responsibilities and accountability for energy consumption and conservation at all levels.
Urbana Chancellor Richard Herman supported incentive plans and making units accountable for their expenditures as well as allowing them to benefit from any savings. “That’s the way any good business should work,” he said.
Trustee Robert Vickrey suggested the university consider providing facilities for recharging electric vehicles at no cost to motorists, an idea that Katehi said is under consideration. The Energy Task Force is recruiting a consulting firm to conduct an energy needs assessment and recommend conservation measures for the campuses, Katehi said. The firm’s report will be due in the spring; specific guidelines and timelines for implementation will be based upon that report.
Katehi and Tanner reported on various clean energy and conservation projects under way at the three campuses. By spring 2008, the Facilities and Services Division at Urbana will have accurate steam and chilled water meters installed in the buildings that comprise 90 percent of the energy usage on campus. The meters will provide the usage data for departments/units so that costs can be allocated accordingly, Katehi said.
A draft energy policy will be brought to the Urbana faculty for discussion. A number of recommendations in the policy have been implemented already, Katehi said.
White said he would be challenging the Policy Council, which comprises the chancellors and vice presidents, to bring to the trustees a universitywide plan by March for replacing incandescent lighting wherever possible with fluorescent and LED lighting to reduce energy consumption.
On Dec. 5, 120 people – including senior administrators, faculty members and students – were to have met at the Illini Union for a one-day Resources Summit convened by White.
“The bad days of the first half of this decade from a resources point of view are behind us” and revenue is “pouring in at a pretty significant rate,” White said. “But if you go out to the schools, the colleges, and the departments, and talk to faculty there continues to not be enough money getting to the front lines. And I think we have to put our heads together and come up with a process to ensure that we are running the university in a way that delivers the maximum resources possible – money and other resources – to the front lines of academic work. I know we can do it. Frankly, I don’t think we can request incremental resources from this board, the state or our private donors unless we can say with confidence, ‘We have wrestled this matter to the ground.’ ”