AUSTIN - America’s colleges and universities are positioned to lead the transition to 100 percent renewable energy, according to a report released today by Environment Texas Research & Policy Center. And new legislation would authorize student funding to help colleges green their campuses.
At least twenty Texas colleges and universities have set goals to achieve carbon neutrality and many have taken important steps toward clean energy.
- Southwestern University’s decision to switch to 100% renewable energy prompted their city of Georgetown to follow suit by committing to the same goal. Southwestern has been entirely powered by renewable energy for about seven years now.
- In 2015, Rice University made a two year agreement to source 3 megawatts of their energy use from solar power (7% of their Houston campus’ power use). Rice set a goal to become carbon neutral by 2038 and they’re starting by designing “green buildings” through the LEED program and installing on-site solar panels.
- In 2015, Huston Tillotson installed 240 kilowatts in rooftop solar arrays on three buildings on campus, making HT the first private historically black college and university (HBCU) to generate a significant amount of energy from on-site renewable production.
- UT San Antonio boasts 1228 solar panels on campus, generating enough electricity to save the school $65,000 per year in energy costs.
- Texas A&M students funded the creation of the “Aggie Mini-Power Station,” which supplies power from solar energy to charge students’ electronic devices. The project was funded through the Aggie Green Fund, a student-funded program to support renewable energy and environmental projects on campus.
SB 1552 (Menendez) would allow students at Texas public colleges to hold elections to institute or continue similar green fees at their campuses.
"Students and young people understand better than most the consequences of climate change," said Senator Jose Menendez. "Senate Bill 1552 will empower college students to change university policy to develop renewable energy and protect our environment."
According to the report, Renewable Energy 100: The Course to a Carbon-Free Campus, transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy is the best way for the hundreds of universities that have made commitments to carbon neutrality by 2050 to achieve their goals. The report cites a number of factors that make institutions of higher education well-suited to lead America’s efforts:
- They are significant energy consumers, serving more than 20 million students;
- College and university campuses often have physical attributes that make them good locations for hosting clean energy projects. Many have space on rooftops, in parking lots, and on marginal land for hosting solar panels, wind turbines, and other clean energy technologies;
- They can save money and hedge against volatile fossil fuel costs by investing in clean energy;
- They are leaders of innovation and training;
“By adopting plans for a rapid and steady shift to 100 percent, clean renewable energy Texas’ colleges and universities can play a vital role in the country’s efforts reduce climate-altering carbon pollution,” said Luke Metzger, Director of Environment Texas. “As influential institutions in their communities they can set an example; while conducting the research we need and training the clean energy practitioners of the future.”
By setting ambitious clean energy goals, colleges and universities can bolster learning and research, drive innovation, attract new students, and save money – all while setting an example for the nation and reducing their own environmental impact. At the same time, bold clean energy goals are attractive to students and others in the campus community.
“A shift to 100 percent renewable energy is the kind of vision that’s needed to inspire young adults on college campuses to get involved,” continued Metzger. “Today’s college students will be the civic leaders we need to move us to a sustainable world.”
Environment Texas is a statewide, citizen-based advocacy organizations working for a cleaner, greener, healthier future.