MSU’s energy transition

04-18-2012

As we approach another Earth Day on April 22, I was pleased this week to participate in a dialog with the campus community, in person and via webcast, on sustainability at Michigan State and the university’s Energy Transition Plan.

This program allowed us to discuss a subject very close to this institution at a timely point. Our Board of Trustees April 13 approved our Energy Transition Plan after a year of study by an ad hoc committee including students, staff, and community members.

I encourage you to follow the above link and review the plan. As we weigh our options for supplying power to this campus in the years to come, the plan takes into account key considerations including reliability, capacity, environment, health, and cost. Its three primary goals are to improve the physical environment, invest in sustainable energy research and development, and to become an education leader in sustainable energy.

The committee solicited community input and held town hall meetings to share draft goals and strategies last fall, and then put the plan to an expert external committee before opening it for public comment in January.

A few have called on us to shut down our mostly coal-fired power plant and turn immediately to cleaner, renewable energy sources. What we view as a more sustainable, real-world solution is part of the plan’s call for flexibility while pursuing that goal. We developed an integrated energy planning model that considers several scenarios to evaluate emissions and renewable energy targets.

The best option among those is to cut environmental and health impacts of energy generation while capturing energy sav­ings for further conservation and renewable energy infrastructure. An investment of $30 million to $40 million in energy conservation over the next 10 years, as well as investment to meet energy-related standards for new buildings, could save up to 25 percent in the annual cost of utilities—savings that can be reinvested in other energy-related activities.

Like our Campus Master Plan, the Energy Transition Plan will be reviewed every five years to take advantage of new opportunities and technologies. Vice President Fred Poston will assemble an Energy Operations Committee to oversee attainment of the plan’s goals.

Student engagement is critical moving forward, and I call on everyone in the campus community to help find ways to save energy as well as other resources. I am hoping our growing community of residential neighborhoods on campus will become an important part of the solution as well.

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