Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Tuesday, February 19, 2019

EPA ranks AU for green energy use

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Partnership ranked AU No. 12 for clean energy usage among colleges and universities in the United States.

AU uses 100 percent green power through photovoltaic solar panels, which are located on the roofs of seven University buildings, and the school’s purchase of renewable energy certificates.

“The rankings are compiled quarterly, using data submitted by partners,” the EPA said in an email to The Eagle.

The list ranked the top 20 clean energy-using colleges and universities. The University of Pennsylvania ranked first, using 48 percent green power and 200,194,600 kilowatt-hours of renewable energy annually.

AU used 54,033,500 kilowatt-hours this year. Because the University already uses 100 percent green power, the only way to move up in the rankings would be to use more energy.

Solar panels produce one percent of the energy used by AU and renewable energy credits cover the rest.

“We purchase renewable energy credits to offset the rest of our energy usage,” said AU’s Sustainable Outreach Associate Joshua Kaplan, referring to the energy not produced by on-site solar panels.

Each renewable energy credit is worth a certain number of kilowatt-hours, which the University purchases from a wind turbine in Colorado, Kaplan said.

AU does not use the energy produced by the wind farm but still claims the environmental benefit, Kaplan said.

This practice is common as most wind farms are in the Midwest, while the majority of energy usage takes place on the coasts.

“We’re creating more demand for wind energy,” Kaplan said.

The ultimate goal is to build a local wind farm and buy wind energy directly, he said.

“It was only starting in 2010 that we started to purchase all of our electricity through them [the wind farm],” Kaplan said.

AU’s purchasing of renewable energy is the equivalent of planting 451,434 mature trees or taking 9,514 cars off the road annually, according to data collected in 2010 by the EPA.

AU is also ranked on the Green Power Partnership’s “100 Percent Purchasers” list, which ranks organizations like Fortune 500 companies, universities and state and federal governments, based on green power usage.

“We’re the 24th largest purchaser of all organizations, which puts us right behind the Empire State Building,” Kaplan said.

AU is still working to improve by achieving carbon neutrality by 2020.

The University is trying to find ways to offset carbon emissions for energy usage that is encouraged and cannot be reduced. For example, AU encourages students to study abroad, but that means more carbon emissions from plane travel, Kaplan said.

To compensate, the University hopes to purchase more green energy to counter the effect of carbon emissions from planes.

Beckerman said that it is important that AU students pay attention to issues relating to sustainability on campus.

“I think our sustainability efforts [on campus] are a reflection of what we should be doing as a country,” he said.

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