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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

UA commits $1/4 Million for energy efficient, money saving upgrades

The UA is participating in the “Save Energy, Grow Money” Billon Dollar Green Challenge, which aims to finance energy-efficient upgrades while saving money.

The challenge invited colleges, universities and nonprofit organizations to invest a total of $1 billion in self-managed green revolving funds. Thirty-two institutions, including the UA, have committed $65 million to the challenge so far, according to Shoshana Blank, a research fellow at the Sustainability Endowments Institute.

Blank said the challenge can help universities with their operating budgets, because revamping a building to become more efficient could lower utility bills.

“It’s very self-sustainable, financially,” she said.

Initial examples of efficiency upgrades the UA could invest in are what Blank refers to as “low-hanging fruit,” simple upgrades such as lighting and water retrofits. Such upgrades could include adding new technology to older systems, low flow showerheads and toilets, energy saving software in computer labs and campus composts.

“There are definitely a lot of things out there, the UA is huge and has so many buildings,” Blank said. “There is so much that could be taken care of with this type of fund.”

Other universities participating in the challenge include Harvard University, Stanford University and Arizona State University. The UA committed to set aside $1 million over a four-year period, and the first $250,000 is earmarked for projects starting in September 2012, according to Joe Abraham, the UA’s sustainability director.

Abraham said the new green revolving fund complements the UA’s existing Green Fund. For example, he said the new fund could upgrade heating and cooling systems, and the UA Green Fund could finance a program to get students to turn off more lights.

“They have similar goals, and they provide ways in which students and employees can submit proposals for projects,” he said. “They end up complementing each other, and the funds can be coordinated.”

In addition, Abraham said the new fund provides a way for the UA to expand its “already very well-established” sustainability program, because it allows for upgrades within campus operations, water efficiency and solar energy.

“This (the fund) gives us more recognition and further expands our efforts to be an environmentally sustainable university,” he added.

An indirect bonus of the green revolving fund is the potential jobs it could create, because revamping buildings includes manpower and machinery, according to Natalie Lucas, the executive program director of Students for Sustainability. Potential jobs could include construction, engineering and architecture-related jobs, she said.

“When you need people, you make jobs,” Lucas said.

Lucas said the main goal of the fund, however, is to improve sustainability while reducing campus costs. The UA can now implement systems to reduce costs by reducing or preventing energy consumption through things like air conditioning and water.

“It takes a ton of money to keep the university powered, and lots of water,” she said. “The Green Fund helps promote these money-saving projects.”

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