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Maine’s Universities Achieve 26% Reduction in Carbon Footprint

Campus dependence on heating oil to drop more than one-half-of-a-million gallons (49%) by 2016 heating season as efficient, alternative fuel heating systems become operational

BANGOR, MAINE – The University of Maine System released an Energy and Sustainability Report today highlighting a 26% statewide reduction in carbon emissions since 2006. The system also announced that campus dependence on heating oil is expected to drop by more than half-a-million gallons, a reduction of approximately 49%, by the start of the 2016 heating season as efficient, alternative fuel heating systems become operational.

The Energy and Sustainability Report was presented to the Finance, Facilities and Technology Committee of the UMS Board of Trustees chaired by Norman Fournier.

“We are working hard to be responsible stewards of the tax and tuition dollars entrusted to the university system and of the environment,” said Norman Fournier, Chair of the Board of Trustees Finance, Facilities and Technology Committee.  “Our targeted investments and campus-led conservation initiatives are reducing our carbon emissions and our overall energy consumption.”

In 2006 Maine’s public universities released approximately 97,500 Metric Tons of Carbon Dioxide Equivalent (MTCDE).   In 2010 the University of Maine System formed a collaborative, systemwide energy management committee with representatives from each of the campuses.  Building on earlier achievements the “System Energy Team” worked with university leaders to lower emissions by 26 percent to 72,500 MTCDE in 2014.

The university system’s carbon footprint and energy expenditures can vary year-to-year based on the severity of Maine winters and fluctuations in the market prices for fuel.  The conservation initiatives and investments in more efficient, lower-emission systems ensure that lower quantities of cleaner energy will be needed to power Maine’s public universities.

According to data compiled by Sightlines, a facilities asset firm that advises educational institutions across the country, emissions at Maine’s universities are 33% lower than its peer institutions on a full-time-equivalent student basis.  The FY 2014 industry benchmark is 4.84 MTCDE / FTE Student compared to 3.22 MTCDE / FTE in the University of Maine System.

“Maine’s universities are leaders on the environment because of our research and programs, our investments, and the daily choices we all make across our campuses,” said University of Maine System Chancellor James H. Page.   “Every member of the university community has contributed to the emission reductions we have achieved just as we all share in the obligation to do even more in the years to come.”

The reduction in carbon emissions is tied to efficiency initiatives across the campuses as well as the wholesale replacement of many outdated heating plants with newer, efficient systems that rely on renewable biomass or less carbon-intense fossil fuels like natural gas.  The 2015 Energy and Environmental Sustainability Initiatives Report highlights a number of these projects including:

  • University of Maine at Machias:  Compressed natural gas service project under construction on campus and will replace 13 end-of-life boilers to realize a near 12% efficiency gain and displace an estimated 146,000 gallons of heating oil annually;
  • University of Maine at Farmington:  A new, eco-friendly biomass central heating plant fueled by renewable, locally-sourced woodchips will replace 390,000 gallons of heating oil and reduce carbon emissions by 3,000 tons;
  • University of Maine at Fort Kent:  A new, biomass district-heating project that serves 15 buildings across the university and local school buildings in Fort Kent is now operational and has displaced 10 obsolete oil boilers and;
  • University of Southern Maine:  The renovation and replacement of a 1960’s vintage heating plant on the Portland campus included the installation of three new natural gas boilers ensuring reliable, efficient and economical service to campus.  The project is expected to achieve an 11% fuel savings.

Campus dependence on heating oil, which stood at about 1.1 million gallons in FY 2015 will be reduced by an estimated 49 percent, approximately 536,000 gallons of heating oil, as these conversions and systems become operational.