University of California, Irvine

University of California, Irvine receives Second Nature’s 2nd Annual Climate Leadership Award. Award recipients were recognized at the 5th Annual American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) Summit in Washington, DC on June 23rd, hosted by George Washington University.

UC Irvine’s award-winning sustainability program builds on the University of California’s (UC) comprehensive Policy on Sustainability Practices encompassing Green Building Design, Clean Energy, Climate Protection, Sustainable Transportation, Sustainable Operations, Recycling and Waste Management, Environmentally Preferable Purchasing, and Sustainable Food Services. With the support of Chancellor Michael Drake, Wendell Brase, UC Irvine’s Vice Chancellor for Administrative & Business Services, leads UC’s systemwide Climate Solutions Steering Group and UC Irvine’s Sustainability Committee. Brase is frequently invited to speak at regional and national conferences addressing carbon reduction on university and college campuses.

In 2007, UC committed to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 2000 levels by 2014, 1990 levels by 2020, and net zero emissions as soon as possible. UC Irvine developed its own strategy to achieve these GHG reductions and is on track to meet 2014 and 2020 goals. Since 2007, the campus has reduced CO2e emissions by 34,060 metric tons by employing a Strategic Energy Partnership Program (SEP), on-site renewable energy, transportation demand management, and a Green Building Program. Eight UC Irvine buildings bear the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Gold rating for new construction, the most at any U.S. campus. Staff bring the innovation and commitment instrumental to the success of all of these efforts.

This year, UC Irvine completed Phase I of its SEP, the most far-reaching energy efficiency and conservation program attempted by any California campus. This program resulted in annual savings of 16,000 metric tons of GHG emissions, which will be sustained year after year. UC Irvine is now implementing Phase 2. During the two-year implementation period, the campus expects to save 17 million kWh and 150,000 therms of natural gas, exceeding the benchmark achieved in Phase I. This goal, if achieved, will again surpass the energy-efficiency savings of all other California campuses.

SEP projects are funded in part with incentives offered through the University of California / California State University / Investor-Owned Utility Partnership, a unique, statewide energy efficiency program designed to achieve cost-effective immediate and persistent electricity peak energy and demand savings and natural gas savings. UC Irvine works in association with two of the utilities: Southern California Edison and Southern California Gas Co. There are 33 campuses engaged in the Partnership.

Phase II will employ UC Irvine’s “Smart Labs” initiative, which addresses one of the most challenging carbon-reduction issues facing U.S. research universities today. Modern research laboratories account for up to two-thirds of an institution’s Scope 1+2 GHG emissions; Smart Lab is an integrated approach to laboratory energy retrofit and new construction projects that can reduce energy consumption and GHG emissions in individual laboratories by an unprecedented 50%.

In 2008, UC Irvine signed an agreement with SunEdison to finance, build, and operate a solar energy system utilizing 12 campus rooftops. In March 2009, the campus began purchasing energy generated by the system, which is expected to produce more than 24 million kWh (equivalent to offsetting 25.6 million pounds of CO2e) over 20 years. The campus’ 19-megawatt co-generation facility provides 80 percent of the campus’ core electrical needs and 90% of heat supplied for comfort heating and laboratory processes including steam for sterilization. The plant provides more than 98% of core campus building cooling needs. Overall, combined heat and power efficiency was 66% in 2010, the most efficient campus energy infrastructure in the U.S.

The campus’ award-winning sustainable transportation program includes an extensive free shuttle service; incentives for carpooling, vanpooling, and car sharing; and programs to encourage bicycle commuting and sharing. The campus provides subsidized passes for unlimited rides on county buses and does not issue parking permits to students who live within four miles of the campus.

UC Irvine’s National Fuel Cell Research Center operates the most heavily used publicly accessible hydrogen station in the world as part of a broader research activity exploring the potential for a hydrogen economy. It also developed technology resulting in the demonstration of a tri-generation energy system that will produce electricity, heat, and renewable hydrogen on demand using a stationary fuel cell fueled by biogas. The NFCRC is but one example of UC Irvine’s strong research and academic leadership in climate change. The campus offers 30 environment- or sustainability-related majors (totaling to more than 300 courses), and a minor in Global Sustainability is open to all undergraduates. Numerous faculty pursue climate-change research, and there are more than a dozen centers on campus that focus on sustainability issues while engaging researchers, students, policymakers, and industry from around the world.

Through volunteerism and research, students actively pursue climate action change. The student-governed, student-funded Green Initiative Fund supports carbon-reduction and sustainability programs on campus, along with the Green Campus Program, an undergraduate student organization. Graduate student researchers are tackling real-world problems involving alternative transportation fuels and infrastructure, and bringing climate change science to organizations and K-12 classrooms in surrounding communities.

UC Irvine received the Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award, California’s highest environmental honor.