Campus News

UB earns high marks in green power usage

View of solar panels in Solar Strand at sunset.

UB fares well on two recently released lists that track green power usage among the nation’s colleges and universities.

By DAVID J. HILL

Published April 23, 2019

Tis the season for sustainability rankings in higher education, and UB fares well on two lists that track green power usage among the nation’s colleges and universities.

For the second straight year, UB tops the Mid-American Conference (MAC) in green power usage, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 2018-19 College and University Green Power Challenge, the results of which were revealed on Earth Day, April 22.

Since April 2006, EPA’s Green Power Partnership has tracked and recognized the collegiate athletic conferences with the highest combined green power use within the program. The Individual Conference Champion Award recognizes the school that uses the largest amount of green power in a qualifying conference.

Of the 36 conference winners this year, UB ranks No. 2 in green power usage. The university uses more than 224 million kilowatt hours of green power — equivalent to the electricity consumption of more than 21,000 average American homes annually — which represents 100 percent of the university’s annual electricity use.

UB trails only the Southeastern Conference champion University of Tennessee, Knoxville, which uses more than 250 million kilowatt hours.

In addition to the EPA ranking, UB is among the top 10 colleges in the country for renewable energy use, according to the Denver-based advocacy group Environment America Research and Policy Center.

The rankings are important because they come at a time when prospective students are choosing which college to attend. Sixty-three percent of students surveyed for the Princeton Review’s 2018 “College Hopes & Worries Survey” reported that information about a college’s commitment to the environment would influence their application or enrollment decisions.

“Rankings such as these matter because we know that today’s prospective students care deeply about sustainability issues and are making their college decisions based in large part on how well a university fares in this regard,” says Laura Hubbard, UB vice president for finance and administration. “It’s also a point of pride for the university as we continue celebrating Sustainability Month with dozens of events that span the range of what it means to be sustainable.”

UB is No. 10 on the Environment America list, which was compiled by gathering data from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) and ranking 180 qualifying colleges using their Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) scores from the past three years.

To account for differences in school size, Environment America divided the amount of renewable energy each school produced or purchased by the number of full-time equivalent students.

Of the 180 schools that have reported their renewable energy data to the STARS system, 91 percent are using some amount of renewable energy.

Southwestern University in Texas was No. 1 on Environment America’s list. The school purchases Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) from wind farms equivalent to 100% of its electricity consumption.

Environment America’s report notes that campuses across the country are cleaning up their transportation systems by transitioning away from fossil fuel-powered vehicles and moving toward electric vehicle fleets — something that UB is currently considering.