University of Maryland ranks 12th in green power use nationwide

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SSC event at Stamp Student Union promoting a ban on fracking. Photo taken by Ying Deng

The University of Maryland has been ranked 12th in the Top 30 College & Universities list of green power usage across the country.

According to rankings released by the Environmental Protection Agency, 32 percent of this university’s energy use is through green power. This adds up to a total of a little over 87 million kilowatts of green power used every year. 

Green power is defined by the EPA as a subset of renewable energy that produces the highest benefit for the environment. This can include energy produced by wind, solar, hydroelectric, biogas, eligible biomass and low-impact small hydroelectric sources. Green power aids in reducing carbon footprints, in addition to supporting renewable energy development.

This university has an extensive track record for campaigning and priding itself for its status as a green campus. This year alone, the university installed more water bottle filling stations, added 120 bikes at 15 bike stations and achieved its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent since 2005.

The university was also ranked 74th on the National Top 100 list, which organizations and companies nationwide, as well as universities. 

Despite strong improvements throughout the years, many students feel that UMD can become a greener campus, especially when compared to other university initiatives. Nearby American University has committed to carbon neutrality by 202o, and the University of California plans to do so by 2025. But this university is aiming for a less lofty goal- aiming for carbon neutrality by 2050.

Rankings are based upon a set of standards placed by the EPA. Many schools that are ranked below the University of Maryland generate much more green power, but are ranked lower since they don’t consume as much energy overall. Other “green rankings” have knocked UMD’s spot down in recent years — Sierra Clubs “Cool Schools” ranked the university 13th in 2013 and 44th this year.

Maya Spaur, a senior director at the Student Sustainability Committee (SSC), is very proud of the the university’s ranking, but believes that there is plenty of room for improvement. She believes this improvement should begin with upgrading the university’s cogeneration heat and power plant, which produces about 81 percent of campus energy.

“Though the CHP is designed to be more efficient than conventional power plants, it is fueled on natural gas, a dirty energy source,” Spaur said. “Since we have committed ourselves to being a green model for the nation, perhaps the most important way we can do that is by maximizing energy efficiency.”

Jennifer Chorosevic, an architecture graduate student who assists a sustainability architecture class, was more concerned about promoting these green standards through education and campaigns.

“I am continually impressed by Maryland’s commitment to sustainability, but I think that the university could do a better job of promoting, both internally externally, their efforts to be a greener campus,” Chorosevic said.

University President Wallace Loh has made this issue a primary focus by taking on a green initiative regarding energy, transportation and consumption. In 2014, he announced three main goals that aimed to encourage faculties and students on campus to gear towards clean energy and renewable power.

The president’s goals are mainly focused toward reducing electricity use on campus by 20 percent by 2020, as well as a commitment towards zero carbon emissions by 2050.

In addition, the university partnered to co-host the Climate Action 2016 Forum and Summit in May, which hosted more than 700 leaders from various communities as part of the initiative to reduce climate change, as promoted by the United Nations Paris Agreement.

Campus-wide organizations are also putting in efforts to expand awareness and efforts towards clean and efficient energy consumption.

Kate Harrison, a junior environmental science and policy major and a member of SGA’s Student Sustainability Committee, is working towards a campaign that “would remove the $71 million of  endowment that the university has invested in ‘dirty energy’ and attempt to reinvest them responsibly.”

For Harrison, this is one of the most important things that this university can be doing in order to truly become a green university.

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