Determine Baseline Energy Consumption
To create a climate action plan for your research campus, begin by determining current energy consumption and the resulting greenhouse gas emissions. You can then break down emissions by sector. It important to understand the following at the beginning:
The Importance of a Baseline
"The baseline inventory also provides a common data set for establishing benchmarks and priorities during the strategic planning stage and a means for estimating associated resource costs and benefits."
Energy consumption and corresponding greenhouse gas emissions are growing faster than energy savings at most U.S. research campuses as the scope of operations increases and services expand. Furthermore, research campuses and laboratory buildings consume more energy than typical facilities. Energy-intensive research, data centers, and safety and ventilation requirements drive up consumption and the resulting greenhouse gas emissions. This presents a challenge and an opportunity to create climate action plans to move towards climate-neutral research campuses.
Conduct Energy Audit to Determine Carbon Footprint
Before assembling data, you must set a scope for the audit. The scope should identify the campus boundary and any off-site energy impacts you will be calculating. For example, the fuel consumed during integral business activities—commuting to work or traveling for business purposes—is usually included in the baseline. However, the impacts of joint ventures that take place off-site are often calculated separately. If your campus operates satellite research sites, you must also determine which of these facilities will be considered in the greenhouse gas inventory.
The greenhouse gas inventory consists of three parts:
Scope 1: Direct combustion of fuels at your site. Carbon emissions from direct combustion readily translate from fuel consumption data using standard engineering formulas.
Scope 2: Indirect impact from purchased electricity. Carbon emissions from electricity consumption can be obtained for your utility company, region, and state from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Emissions and Generation Resource Integrated Database (eGRID).
Scope 3: Transportation impacts from commuters and business travel, which can be derived from surveys of commuter and business travel patterns.
Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventory by Sector
The result of the greenhouse gas inventory shows emissions by source for a base year. You will set future reduction targets using this base year as a starting point. The source breakdown of carbon emissions will direct your climate action plan toward the activities with the greatest emissions.
A number of resources explain inventory charting methods and how to calculate carbon emissions:
Stabilization Wedges; Solving the Climate Problem for the Next 50 Years with Current Technologies : Article in Science Magazine explaining stabilization wedge charts to map climate action plans.
- The Campus Carbon Calculator is designed specifically for campuses. The American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment requires its signatories to use this calculator when formulating their climate plans. The standards used in this calculator are consistent with those of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, which is a product of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the World Resources Institute.
Cool Campus! A Guide for College and University Climate Action Planning: The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education devotes a section of this climate action planning guide to determining your institution's carbon footprint.
After completing this part of your climate action plan, the next step is to analyze technology options.