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Higher Education in a Warming World

Higher Education in a Warming World

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Published by: ICICP on Jul 28, 2011
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Self-renewing loan funds to support sustainability projects are a relatively new idea for campuses, though
one such initiative—the Energy Conservation Measures Fund at the University of Michigan176

back to 1988. The aim of these funds is to provide zero- or low-interest loans for campus projects that
have short paybacks—and that otherwise would not be undertaken for want of financing. Savings that
accrue pay off the loan, increase the principal and are then reinvested in new projects. Loan funds can be
structured so that part or all of the savings return to the fund, growing its project leveraging power.
Fund-supported initiatives reduce the environmental impact of the institution (and cut greenhouse gases),
save money, and provide educational opportunities for the campus community.






Connecticut College170

$25 / year

Renewable energy purchase: Wind power,


($47,500 / yr)

provides 50% of campus electricity.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill171

$4 / semester

On-campus solar hot water system;


($210,000 / yr) geothermal system for new building.

Western Washington University172

$10 / quarter

Renewable energy purchase: Green power mix,


($355,000 / yr) provides 100% of campus electricity.

Northland College173


$20 / semester On-campus Renewable Energy Fund,


($25,000 / yr)

paid for solar panels, Prius hybrid for college.

University of California, Santa Barbara174

$2.60 / quarter Created Green Initiative Fund for green power,


($186,000 / yr) energy efficiency, waste reduction.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign175

$7 / semester

Clean Energy Technology Fee ($2)


($560,000 / yr) and Sustainability Fee ($5) for projects.

These two examples show the range of possibilities:

Harvard University’s178

Green Campus Loan Fund provides capital for high
performance campus design, operations, maintenance and occupant behavior
projects. It supports projects in existing buildings with paybacks of less than five
years. Projects can be bundled together so that short-payback projects can offset
those with longer paybacks. Since its launch in 2002 with $3 million in campus
money, the GCLF has funded over 160 projects in areas such as lighting, HVAC,
PVs, cogeneration, kitchen equipment, recycling and computer energy education.
In 2006, after operating for three years, then-president Lawrence Summers shifted
more money into the fund, increasing it to $12 million. The reason? The loan fund
had been getting twice the return on investment as the university’s endowment, which hovers around
15%. As of March 2007, GCLF projects were saving nearly $4 million per year with an average project
ROI of 35%. Besides saving money, fund-supported initiatives have cut an estimated 27,400 metric tons
of CO

2from Harvard’s total.

The Clean Energy Revolving Fund (CERF) at Macalester College179

(Minn.) was created in 2006 as a
student initiative. Its initial fund totaled $27,000, of which $20,000 came from the Macalester College
Student Government. According to the CERF website, “The mission of the fund is to encourage global
sustainability on campus and in the community, by funding innovative projects that demonstrate
environmental leadership and economic benefit.” Proposals include money-saving projects dealing with
fuel, electricity, water and building maintenance. It has two formulas for paying back project loans based
on annual savings. A five-member board administers the fund which includes two students, an
administrator, faculty member and an alumnus.

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