Campus Carbon Offset Case Studies: Valencia College

Valencia College, Osceola Building 4

Valencia College, Osceola Building 4

Valencia College Case Study

As a result of its strong greenhouse gas reduction performance under Second Nature’s Carbon Commitment and Silver level participation in AASHE STARS, Valencia College was recommended as a pilot project for Chevrolet’s Campus Clean Energy Efficiency Campaign. Valencia College is a community college with nearly 70,000 students attending five campuses in the Orlando, Florida area. It is the only community college participating in the Chevy campus program.

The Chevy Climate Reduction Initiative is perfecting a methodology to have carbon reductions verified as voluntary carbon credits. As a result, colleges and universities reducing their carbon emissions beyond specified and demanding performance levels can sell these credits to buyers as carbon markets develop. Funds can then be used to further advance these schools’ clean energy efficiency, allowing them to achieve even greater beyond business as usual levels of greenhouse gas reductions. Chevrolet’s innovative program has as its overall goal the expansion of clean energy efficiency. Sue Hall of Climate Neutral Business Network developed the voluntary carbon methodology with the Verified Carbon Standard, for the higher education clean energy efficiency sector and has worked with us closely throughout the process.

Valencia College qualifies under the new methodology on a campus-wide basis because its scope 2 electricity emissions exceed the 6.74% annual percentage reduction threshold established as the performance benchmark (comparable to the performance achieved by the top 15% of colleges reporting under Second Nature’s Presidents’ Climate Leadership Commitments). This is the main qualification criterion for Associate Colleges for this methodology. This aggressive reduction in college-wide electricity consumption at Valencia has been achieved through staff energy efficiency efforts over the past 15 years and an institutional commitment to Green Building. For example, the College has recently installed a highly flexible college-wide Building Automation System, converting earlier ineffective systems to the one that is most user-friendly and reliable. Further in the last two years Valencia has added an aggressive behavioral energy efficiency (Energy Education) program. Valencia College has approached electricity demand reduction using three methods:  (1) the construction of more energy efficient buildings; (2) installation of more efficient chiller plants and controls; and (3) the development of energy efficient behavioral practices, which reduce the college’s need for energy.

The estimated return on incremental capital from selling carbon credits is highly positive. At the $3 per square foot incremental cost that USGBC estimates is needed to achieve high energy efficiency performance, Valencia would achieve a 7 – 14% return on incremental capital over a 10-year span at $5-10/ton pricing for project carbon reductions.

Carbon funds paid to Valencia College by Chevrolet, through its buyer agent Bonneville Environmental Foundation, must be used for additional carbon reductions. Valencia’s Office of Sustainability is working to have the funding, which will be transferred to the college over a three year period, become seed money for an entirely new Green Revolving Fund. Considerable assistance in proposing a Green Revolving Fund was provided by staff of the Sustainable Endowments Institute (SEI).

SEI’s Billion Dollar Green Challenge encourages colleges, universities, and other nonprofit institutions to invest a combined total of $1 billion dollars in self?managed green revolving funds that finance energy efficiency improvements. Forty colleges and universities have set up Green Revolving Funds and have signed a MOU with SEI to share information as part of the Billion Dollar Green Challenge.  Working with SEI to set up a Green Revolving Fund will give us invaluable capability to ensure that there is a consistent, persistent source of funding dedicated to helping us sustain our beyond business as usual leadership level energy efficiency and GHG emission reduction performance.

Valencia College’s facility directors have in the past supported major expenditures that have contributed to energy efficiency and energy use reductions. However, setting up a Green Revolving Fund would result in accelerated energy (and associated cost) savings. As a community college, Valencia does not have separate departmental budgets like larger 4-year and research institutions. Considerations raised by the College’s Chief Financial Officer to using the Chevrolet Carbon Reduction Fund monies for a Green Revolving Fund have been that other departments would then want to have their own funds.  However, the fact that the Chevrolet Carbon Reduction Fund monies represent a special case, designated specifically for further carbon reductions, addressed this concern.

Having embraced the documentation of our college’s GHG emissions for the Second Nature Commitments and documentation of many aspects of our operations for STARS, Valencia College’s office of sustainability recognizes the importance of Lord Kelvin’s adage “If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it.”  The Chevrolet Carbon Reduction Initiative, in addition to bringing in new funding, is stimulating greater measurement and improvements in our energy operations. Valencia encourages other colleges with strong energy efficiency programs to join Chevrolet’s exciting pilot project.

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