University of Maine Recognized for Climate Leadership

The University of Maine receives Second Nature’s 2nd Annual Climate Leadership Award for Climate Leadership. 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.

President Robert Kennedy, Vice President for Administration and Finance Janet Waldron, and Executive Director of Facilities and Planning Elaine Clark – along with faculty, staff, and students – are all active participants in the University of Maine Sustainability Alliance, which has been responsible for the development of the university’s climate action plan. The office of the Vice President for Administration and Finance also coordinated the creation of the award-winning and sustainability-focused campus master plan. UMaine’s senior administration is currently working to harmonize the implementation of these two plans and to create an overarching sustainability plan to guide university decision-making and development.

UMaine is proud of several new graduate programs that will provide its students with exceptional opportunities to become environmental leaders. These include the Sustainability MBA and an M.S. degree (and undergraduate minor) in Renewable Energy and the Environment which will take advantage of the tremendous Offshore-Wind Laboratory that will be completed later this year. The University also offers an M.A. in Global Policy, with a concentration in International Environmental Policy. UMaine is confident that these programs (along with its Student Innovation Center) will create a dynamic community of learners focused on renewable energy, sustainability, and innovation.

During 2009-2010, UMaine received nearly $50 million in external funding to support sustainability-related research. In addition to creating solutions to environmental problems in Maine (Maine’s Sustainability Solutions Initiative), UMaine researchers are working to deepen the understanding of climate change (UMaine’s Climate Change Institute), and to develop new technologies that will catalyze significant change in the renewable energy industry (UMaine’s Offshore Wind Laboratory and Forest Bioproducts Research Initiative).

Since 2005, UMaine has made steady progress in increasing the efficiency of its energy infrastructure. Fuel switching (Number 6 fuel oil to natural gas) and improvements to its steam distribution network have resulted in a 16% reduction in campus greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 to 2010. In 2010, it completed installation of a 600 kW backpressure turbine which has added cogeneration capacity to the central heating plant. By the end of 2011, UMaine will have completed a major expansion of natural gas service on campus, as well as the installation of a high-efficiency, baseload natural gas boiler at its central heating plant. These improvements will reduce UMaine’s campus greenhouse gas emissions by an additional 7000 metric tons CO2e (equal to three years of progress in meeting its goal of climate neutrality by 2040).

UMaine is also working with Casella Waste Systems to build a pipeline that will deliver purified landfill gas from the nearby Juniper Ridge Landfill to its central heating plant where it will be burned in UMaine’s boilers. The institution has already signed a 20-year fuel purchase agreement with Casella and is currently working with them on details related to project financing and construction.

Finally, UMaine continues to work with the University of Maine Foundation to support a $300,000 Green Loan Fund, and the Univeristy also operates (in partnership with the State of Maine and the Town of Orono) the Orono-Black Bear Express, a free campus shuttle for members of the University to help reduce carbon emissions, congested traffic, and crowded parking lots.