Chapter 4: Our Campus Carbon Footprint

To begin to address campus green house gas emissions, the university joined the President’s Climate Commitment in 2007 (see the introduction), established the President’s Commission for Environmental Sustainability in the summer of 2007, and began the process of collecting the data necessary to measure our emissions. To accomplish this, we have used the Clean Air–Cool Planet “Greenhouse Gas Emissions Calculator”. This calculator is a very elaborate Excel spreadsheet that allows for input of data, calculates our GHG emissions, allows us to enter projects and project changes in emissions as a result of the project, and provides tools for preparing graphs and spreadsheets for reports. We started the process with those emissions for which we had the best supporting data, and it is our plan to add new measures to the calculator as data becomes available.

Plymouth State University resides within Plymouth, NH, a town of about 6,400 permanent residents and a primary shopping and services center for the Lakes region of the state. The university has 4,260 undergraduate and 1,985 graduate students enrolled in 2009. We are primarily a residential campus, housing and feeding approximately 2,500 students. About 800 undergraduates live within walking distance of the campus in off-campus student rentals within the town of Plymouth. Our largest commuting population is graduate students that tend to be working adults taking evening and summer classes. The University has 43 major buildings and 22 smaller buildings with 1.5 million gross square feet on 177 acres of land. There is a central heating system that supports all of the major buildings and produces approximately 50% of the campus’ electricity.

The university has a long history of managing our energy consumption, evidenced by the installation of a campus energy management system in 1982. This system collects data and helps control the use of steam and electricity at approximately 6,000 locations across the campus. The system allows for temperature to be controlled remotely and to schedule changes in room temperature automatically, this has generated years of energy savings and reduced emissions.

In 2008 the university formed the Office of Environmental Sustainability to coordinate and house the data supplied by the energy management system. When we started to consider the available data, we had little historic data about campus emissions other than electrical use and steam production. Therefore, we selected 2001 as our base year for measurement of GHG emissions and initially included only the data described above from our energy management system plus available data on wastewater, solid waste, and transportation. In 2009, we added commuting, refrigeration, paper, and fertilizers to the calculator going back to the base year of 2001. Because we did not always have historic data for these data elements, in some cases we simply applied the 2009 base back to 2001 in order to restate the base for future comparison. (The only issue for concern for the restatement is the growth we have had in our graduate programs since 2001, resulting in an increase in commuter students.) The only major element that is not included in this report is air travel, and we need to find a way to generate this data in the future.

The final product of the CA-CP calculator is an annual measure of GHG emissions by individual measured unit or summarized by scope which is a common presentation for these measures:

  • Scope 1 emissions are those that the university has the most direct control over such as heating and electricity produced at our cogeneration facility.
  • Scope 2 emissions are those major utilities produced off campus and sold to the university such as the electricity we purchase from the New Hampshire Electric Coop.
  • Scope 3 emissions are a series of smaller unrelated emissions such the emissions from commuting, solid waste, wastewater, and paper use.

A comparison of the university GHG emissions by scope is as follows, in metric tons:

Scope 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
1 15,033 15,293 16,929 18,029 17,583 12,994 13,120 11981 12,779
2 773 721 814 816 766 4968 3830 4881 3714
3 3546 3876 3895 4166 4283 4756 4173 4425 4640
Total 19,352 19,890 21,638 23011 22,632 22718 21123 21287 21133

  1. During this eight year period, PSU added 214,223 sq. ft. of new building space to the campus. Based on this growth in space, emissions per square foot of building space dropped from .0156 mt in 2001 to .0145 mt in 2009 of total emissions, a 7% reduction.
  2. The university increased its student body by students over this same period. Emissions per student went from 5.42 to 3.72. A small part of this growth results from change in the way graduate students were historically counted.
  3. The shift in emissions from Scope 1 to Scope 2 is a result of purchasing more electricity directly from New Hampshire Electric Cooperative (NHEC) and producing less in our cogeneration facility. As the price of oil began to increase in 2005, the financial benefit of generating our own electricity in the summer was lost. Since then we have shifted more of our electrical use to our off-campus supplier.

Over 80% of the institution’s emissions are a direct result of heating our space and providing electricity. The university provides electricity and steam for heat and hot water from the following sources:

  • The campus cogeneration facility, located on Tobey Road, produced approximately 50% of campus electricity needs in 2009. This is in stark contrast to 2001, when the campus produced approximately 90%. The engine used to produce this electricity runs on # 2 diesel fuel. As a byproduct, the heat captured from the engine is used to provide hot water for approximately 10% of the campus square footage, and heat from the exhaust is converted to steam, producing approximately 14% of the steam needs for the campus annually.
  • The university provides the remainder of our steam for heat and hot water from a steam plant located in the same facility on Tobey Road. We operate two primary boilers which run on #6 fuel and a smaller boiler that operates on #2 Diesel fuel.
  • There are smaller boiler operations on campus such as the PE Facility and a few smaller building scattered around campus. These facilities represent a small amount of our overall energy demands.

New Hampshire Electric Cooperative, the local electric distributor, provides the balance of our electricity needs.

Despite growth in overall square feet and in our student body, PSU has been able to reduce our overall emissions for two primary reasons. First, our Physical Plant department has taken energy management seriously for many years. Since the initial installation of our first energy management system in 1982, they have monitored and controlled energy use on the campus. The number of points monitored on campus at this time is 6,000 and growing. These systems are upgraded regularly for updates and software changes. Second, since the institution has very limited resources for addressing deferred maintenance issues, planning for projects has primarily focused on energy management and reduction. As the cost for utilities began to increase well ahead of inflation, the focus on energy projects intensified.

Appendix II contains a list of projects completed since 2001. Here are a few major highlights:

  • Beginning in 2002, we replaced a significant amount of an old, poorly insulated and leaking underground steam system with a highly energy efficient series of tunnels. This project has saved on annual repairs and reduced steam loss, and will provide at least double the expected life of the older system.
  • In 2006, PSU opened Langdon Woods, a 113,555 sq. ft. residence hall housing 347 students. This building was among the first Gold LEED certified residence halls in the country. The building was designed to be energy efficient, and the entire building is heated with hot water created from waste heat generated by our cogeneration facility.
  • Campus enthusiasm and education has produced some of our reductions. PSU has a tradition of caring for the environment and has been fortunate to garner sustained support for our many projects. Examples of these are our involvement in RecycleMania, energy competitions in our residence halls, programs that have turned down the set points heat and turned up the set points for air-conditioning. As we discover new concerns, we will continue to provide education to the students, faculty and staff, and the commission is confident we will continue to receive support.
  • The university GHG emissions have been reduced every year since 2004 resulting in a 15% reduction by 2009. In addition, we have created awareness that the university is committed to environmental sustainability. The following trajectory graph shows university GHG emissions, assuming none of the proposed projects called for in this report are completed, compared with GHG emissions if the university follows the projects called for in the CAP plan. This graph, though simply an estimate of 1% growth in emissions per year, serves as a warning to all of us that we must have responsible growth that requires that new space produce no new net emissions.

cap graph 1

Despite the progress we have made, several significant challenges lie ahead, including:

  • The major deferred maintenance projects that allow for further energy reduction and conservation are complete, and it is approaching the time when the university will need to invest in newer or different technologies that will reduce or eliminate emissions.
  • We will need to balance growth and increases in emissions. In 2011, PSU will bring a new ice arena on-line that will add to our electric demand. We have taken some steps to reduce the impact on emission by installing a geothermal system that will result in the reduction of energy use by as much as 30%. Over the next ten years, PSU will be replacing the entire physical education and athletic facility complex. It will be important that the design of these facilities be done in a way that produce no net new emissions and, if possible, negate the increase produced by the ice arena.
  • We will need to deal with funding streams that are not predicable.