The University of Chicago is targeting deeper cuts in its greenhouse gas emissions, setting a goal of a 50% reduction across University operations by 2030. To meet the new greenhouse gas emissions goal, the University will focus on the procurement of electricity from renewable sources such as wind or solar, continued implementation of energy conservation projects, improvement in the University’s landfill diversion rate, and reductions in fleet vehicles gasoline use. The 2030 greenhouse gas emissions reduction target is a continuation of the University’s efforts in the area, which traces back to 2009 when Facilities Services first established a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20%.
From 2010 to 2017, UChicago implemented over 200 energy conservation measures to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Projects included LEED certification of facilities during new construction or major renovations, retro-commissioning of buildings, central utility plant optimization projects, lighting retrofits, and controls upgrades.
The University, with support from a grant by the Crown family, then developed a formal Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Plan for the period of FY2018 – FY2025 to accomplish the 20% reduction goal. Since the beginning of FY2018, the University implemented 20 projects that consist of 119 Energy Conservation Measures (ECMs) that are projected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 8,810 MT eCO2 (5%). As a result of the implementation of energy conservation measures and reduced greenhouse gas emissions on the electrical grid, UChicago Scope 1 and 2 carbon intensity decreased by approximately 11% from the target base year through the end of fiscal year 2018.
While the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Plan laid out an effective roadmap to achieve significant energy savings and greenhouse gas emissions reductions, the University is constantly evaluating options to achieve more aggressive energy and emissions goals. Due to the increasingly urgent threat of global climate change, the University’s new goal to achieve a 50% reduction in absolute greenhouse gas emissions across all University operations by 2030 expands both the magnitude and scope of the original goal. Changing the goal from carbon intensity to absolute emissions will make the University a better steward of the environment and will lead to a greater impact on climate change. The 2025 goal focused on energy efficiency in building and plant operations by implementing energy conservation measures and was based on emissions per square foot of building space. The University’s new 50% by 2030 target is based on absolute greenhouse gas emissions across all University operations; it continues the focus on building and plant energy conservation measures while adding the procurement of renewable energy, increasing the University’s landfill diversion rate, and reducing fleet vehicles’ gasoline use.