The University of Maine System has reduced carbon emissions across its seven campuses and other statewide facilities by 26 percent since 2006, according to a report released Thursday.
By Nick McCrea, BDN Staff
Bangor Daily News news story
BANGOR, Maine — The University of Maine System has reduced carbon emissions across its seven campuses and other statewide facilities by 26 percent since 2006, according to a report released Thursday.
Chip Gavin, chief of facilities management for the system, presented the findings of the 2015 report on systemwide energy and environmental sustainability initiatives to the system’s Finance Facilities and Technology Committee during their meeting Thursday.
During the 2016 heating season, the system expects to cut its consumption of heating oil by more than 500,000 gallons, a 49 percent reduction from last winter.
That was accomplished largely through two major conversions — one that will bring compressed natural gas to the University of Maine at Machias and replace 13 of its aging boilers, and another that will heat the University of Maine at Farmington with woodchips.
The University of Maine at Farmington broke ground on a biomass heating plant back in May. That plant is expected to replace 390,000 gallons of heating oil when it goes online.
The University of Maine at Fort Kent has completed biomass conversions of its own.
“We are working hard to be responsible stewards of the tax and tuition dollars entrusted to the university system and of the environment,” said Norman Fournier, chairman of the finance and facilities committee. “Our targeted investments and campus-led conservation initiatives are reducing our carbon emissions and our overall energy consumption.”
Dozens of small and large projects scattered across the system campuses contributed to energy savings and carbon reductions. One example is LED lighting conversions at the University of Maine at Augusta’s Katz Library and the fitness center at UMA’s Bangor campus — a total investment of about $48,000. Those upgrades are expected to pay themselves off in about four years.
At the University of Southern Maine, the system is spending $3 million to replace the Portland campus’ 50-year-old heating plant equipment with natural gas-fired boilers.
The system doesn’t have a set figure of what it expects to save on future energy costs. That’s in part because of the frequent fluctuation of fuel prices and because there are so many projects of varying scope and impact. System officials say it’s a strategy of “cost avoidance.”
In 2006, Maine’s universities released 97,500 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, or MTCDE. That has since fallen to 72,500 MTCDE, and will drop further as more upgrades and new heating facilities go online, according to Sightlines, a facilities assets firm that works with educational institutions.
Sightlines says UMS’ emissions are about 33 percent lower than the average of its peer institutions.
The reduced emissions mark a major shift for a university system of nearly 40,000 students located in a state that has traditionally relied heavily on fossil fuels to heat and power its buildings. The volatility of fuel prices during the past decade has prompted many large institutions to seek out alternatives and invest in energy-saving upgrades.
Gavin is expected to present the report to the full board of trustees on Monday, the second day of their two-day meeting. The board is holding this month’s meeting at the University of Maine at Presque Isle.
Also during the meeting, trustees will hear about the system’s progress on reining in a projected $90 million structural deficit officials have projected for 2020. The system and its campuses have faced controversial cuts and program reductions during the past year in hopes of avoiding that cliff.
Food will be a big topic of the meeting, with university officials reviewing a recent request for proposals from firms to supply six of the system’s seven campuses with food services. The system has committed to ensuring 20 percent of its food is purchased locally.
Chancellor James Page is expected to provide trustees with an update on the progress of the One University Initiative. Trustees also will learn more about the ongoing searches for the next presidents of the University of Maine at Augusta and University of Maine at Fort Kent.
They’ll also discuss a few real estate deals, including the ongoing effort to sell the central office in downtown Bangor. Employees from that office already are relocating to other area locations.
A full agenda and materials for next week’s trustees meeting are available at www.maine.edu/about-the-system/board-of-trustees/meeting-agendas/.