University of Mississippi Offsets Electricity Use Through Purchase of Renewable Energy Certificates

screen-shot-2017-02-02-at-9-58-05-amThe University of Mississippi has offset a portion of electricity used by the institution through the purchase of renewable energy certificates (RECs).

The purchase, which came about as a recommendation of the UM Energy Committee, allows the university to lower its carbon footprint, support the development of renewable energy technologies and practice resource stewardship, a tenet of the UM Creed.

“[This] is a way to demonstrate that the University of Mississippi supports the production of electricity from clean, renewable resources,” said UM Energy Committee Chair Ian Banner, AIA, who is also director of Facilities Planning, the Office of Sustainability and university architect. “As well as making a contribution to a cleaner world, we feel this is an educational opportunity to show that there are alternative ways of producing power.”

One REC represents the environmental benefits associated with one megawatt-hour of energy generated from renewable energy resources. The university purchased 3,835 RECs for $1800, .o2 percent of the overall electricity bill. This offset 3 percent of institution-wide electricity use from fiscal year 2016.

It is estimated that UM’s RECs have an environmental impact similar to growing 69, 848 trees per year for 10 years or not using 6,240 barrels of oil, according to 3Degrees, Inc., the company through which UM purchased the certificates.

How it works

When electricity is produced from a renewable generator, such as a wind turbine, two products are created: the energy, which is delivered to the grid and mixes with other forms of energy, and the REC. Because renewable energy delivered to the grid cannot be distinguished from electrons of non-renewable resources, the REC is a way to track the renewable electricity—it acts like a receipt for owning the environmental benefits associated with the generation of renewable energy.

“It is not practical to set up a wind or solar farm just as we wouldn’t build a traditional power station to provide the university’s electricity,” Banner said. “Rather, we purchase electricity from the producer, usually the local power supplier.  By purchasing RECs we are able to certify and verify that a percentage of our electricity is tracked back to its source.  In our case the source is a provider that produces electricity using wind turbines that do not create greenhouse gas emissions such as CO2.”

RECs allow individuals and businesses to support renewable energy development and help to make renewable energy projects financially viable while lowering carbon footprints.

About the UM Energy Committee

The UM Energy Committee is comprised of individuals from different disciplines throughout campus who come together to think broadly and holistically about energy on campus.  In Energy Committee meetings, professionals are afforded the opportunity to collaborate with other professional perspectives around the topic of campus energy in new and innovative ways.  Members represent many areas of campus life from campus operations, faculty and university administration, to athletics.  Topics of interest cover all facets of energy, including energy use, energy sources, and energy generation and distribution.

Current members of the Energy Committee include:

  • Ian Banner, AIA, Chair, UM Energy Committee; University Architect; Director, Department of Facilities Planning; Director, Office of Sustainability
  • John Adrian, Business Manager, Office of the Provost
  • Del Hawley, Senior Associate Dean and Associate Professor of Finance, School of Business Administration
  • Robert Martin, energy management coordinator, Facilities Management
  • Anne McCauley, assistant director, Office of Sustainability
  • Cris Surbeck, associate dean for Academic and Student Affairs and associate professor of civil engineering, School of Engineering
  • Joe Swingle, senior associate athletics director, facilities operations, Athletics Department
  • Lonnie Weaver, assistant director, facilities-systems technologies, Facilities Management.

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