UOS Providing Leadership in GHG Reduction
Harvard is embarking on a University-wide effort to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and UOS is leading the way to ensure its success. The scope of this initiative cannot be understated. Effectively reaching the aggressive GHG reduction targets will require a comprehensive examination of the way the University uses energy and more specifically how efficiently UOS delivers its services to the Harvard community.
First, some background on how we got to this point. A vast majority of scientists agree that global warming is directly related to human activity. Since the dawn of the industrial age, greenhouse gases have been pumped into the atmosphere at a staggering rate. At the same time, surface temperatures around the world have been rising dramatically. Some of the most advanced research on global warming is being conducted by Harvard scientists and faculty members who have been calling for a stronger response to the growing problem.
Earlier this year, President Drew Faust answered the call by convening the Greenhouse Gas Task Force which included many of Harvard's global warming experts, administrators, faculty, and students, and was co-chaired by Tom Vautin, Associate Vice President for Facilities & Environmental Services. Their mission was to create a long-term University-wide strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions as part of a broader effort to promote environmental sustainability. After months of work, the Task Force recommended, and President Faust agreed to, a 30% reduction by the year 2016. Based on the scientific evidence, it was clear that this highly aggressive goal would be necessary.
Globally, energy consumption drives greenhouse gas emissions and here at Harvard it's no different. More than 85% of the University's greenhouse gas emissions result from heating, cooling, and powering buildings. For this reason, conservation at the user level will be the top priority. Simply put, buying electricity from renewable sources becomes much less beneficial if the lights are left on 24-hours a day. UOS will continue its efforts to educate the Harvard community on reducing waste.
In addition to conservation, increasing the efficiency of our operations, particularly on the energy purchasing and supply side, will also be an integral part of the process. UOS has already taken many steps in that direction. For instance, The Blackstone Steam Plant had previously been fueled mostly by oil, but a switch to natural gas has reduced the plant's greenhouse gas footprint by 15%. At the Oxford Street Chilled Water Plant, Engineering & Utilities recently replaced two older chillers with more efficient models reducing energy use by nearly 20%. These types of projects will now take on even greater importance given the goals the University is trying to achieve. "The GHG reduction goal sets the bar very high and must also be reached during a time when the University is experiencing enormous growth," explained Tom. "The way UOS delivers energy and other services to Harvard will be critical for overall success."
UOS will also continue to look beyond traditional energy sources to reduce emissions. A prime symbol of this progressive approach is now on display near Harvard Stadium. Engineering and Utilities, in coordination with the Allston Development Group, recently installed a 167-foot meteorological (MET) tower. Mounted high on the steel structure are several anemometers, or wind meters, that measure wind speed and direction. Information will be gathered over the next 12-18 months to determine where, and if on the Harvard campus, wind turbines would be an efficient means of generating some of the University's power. Increasing Harvard's reliance on renewable energy, like wind power, will have a major impact on GHG reduction.
(For video, a slideshow, and more information on the MET tower visit www.uos.harvard.edu/allston/met_tower.shtml.)
There are countless other UOS services and programs that will be critical to meeting the GHG goal. For example, UOS will be looking at how efficiently we're operating University vehicles including expanded use of alternative fuels; how we compile reliable environmental data so schools and departments have a clear picture of their responsibilities; how we can expand our already successful University-wide recycling program; what services we offer that can improve building efficiency; and how we can utilize better technology.
UOS will also play a vital role in helping the University achieve not just greenhouse gas reduction, but the broader goal of promoting overall environmental sustainability. The Green Cleaning Program and the Organic Landscaping Program both dramatically enhance the environment.
"I hope every UOS employee will look at this as a tremendous opportunity to show our strengths and to create a better environment for students, faculty, staff, and the surrounding community," Tom added.
This is clearly the beginning of not just another "effort," but a real shift in the way UOS and Harvard operate.