February 20, 2013

Cornell Reduces Greenhouse Emissions by 7 Percent From 2010-12

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From 2010 to 2012, Cornell decreased its greenhouse gas emissions by seven percent — an achievement University officials said will move Cornell toward its goal of carbon neutrality.

Multiple factors contributed to the seven-percent decrease in emissions, including the University increasing its efficiency in producing heat and electricity, eliminating coal use on campus and upgrading lighting in buildings, according to David Frostclapp, an environmental engineer in the University’s Facility Services.

Lanny Joyce, director of energy management in Facilities Services, lauded the University’s steps in reducing its emissions.

“We’ve made huge steps since 2009,” Joyce said. “We have been exceptional in the progress that we’ve made. We stopped burning coal, and we soundly beat our Kyoto protocol goal of [reducing our] 1990 emission levels [by] seven percent by the end of 2012. We are now striving beyond that for eventual carbon neutrality.”

The University was also able to reduce its emissions partly because the winter was mild during the 2011-12 academic year, causing its heating needs to decrease, Joyce said.

Cornell’s Combined Heat and Power Plant — which was launched in 2009 — also contributed to the decrease in emissions. The CCHPP converts and recycles waste heat as steamor the central heating on campus, according to Frostclapp.

Additionally, Cornell’s Beyond Coal initiative eliminated on-site combustion of coal at the Central Energy Plant for the first time in 2012, according to Joyce. Previously, between 60,000 and 65,000 tons of coal were burned on campus every year, Frostclapp said.

“We went from [powering the campus on] a three-fuel operation where coal was primary and gas was secondary to a two-fuel operation where gas is primary and oil is the backup,” Joyce said. “Because of the dramatic decrease in the price of natural gas, it turned out to be a good choice, and our costs are similar.”

Frostclapp said that the University was partly able to effectively reduce its emissions because energy purchased from New York State emits less carbon dioxide than that purchased in other states.

Since 2008, the University has decreased carbon dioxide emissions from 319,000 tons to 219,000 tons — meaning the University is a third of the way to achieving net-zero carbon emissions, said Robert Bland, senior director of the energy and sustainability department.

The University’s decrease in emissions is also a good financial investment — lowering costs for heating, cooling and electricity on campus, Joyce said.

“We are trying to pursue all of the financially feasible and practical opportunities to reduce carbon emissions to achieve climate neutrality. We are trying to partner with faculty and students to create research and teaching opportunities — a living laboratory,” Bland said.

Original Author: Carolyn Krupski