The Massachusetts Daily Collegian
The Carbon Mitigation Task Force at the University of Massachusetts has its sights set on a carbon neutral campus by 2032.
Birthed from the Chancellor’s Sustainability Advisory Committee (CSAC) and its initiation of the Sustainability Integration Project (SIP), the task force is addressing one of three campus sustainability priorities. Since April 2019, the task force has been looking into the technicalities of developing “a comprehensive, high level feasibility study that seeks to achieve carbon neutrality from 100 percent renewable energy for all heating, cooling and electricity systems of the main campus by 2030,” per UMass Sustainability’s website.
“We initiated a carbon mitigation task force made up of faculty, staff and students,” said Ezra Small, UMass campus sustainability manager. “[We] then decided that we needed to hire a consultant team to help us develop an engineering feasibility study to see what it would take to meet the Chancellor’s charge.” Small mentioned that creating this plan is an important step in intentionally addressing the impacts of global climate change in the Pioneer Valley.
UMass has a history of student action surrounding the University’s climate decisions and awareness. For 80 years, UMass burned coal for heat and electricity; In 2009, its coal-burning power plant was replaced by a Central Heating Plant (cogenerating steam and electricity) that instead burns natural gas and reduces campus greenhouse gas emissions.
“We closed the coal plant and we transitioned to this natural gas plant, which has won EPA awards for efficiency,” Small said. “We transitioned, and inherently reduced our campus emissions by almost 30 percent, just by doing that and a bunch of energy efficiency projects as well.”
According to Small, while UMass met the Massachusetts Global Warming Solutions Act’s 2015 goal for a 30 percent reduction of emissions by 2020, at its current rate, UMass will not meet the 2020 goals of a 45 percent reduction by 2030. Although the existing Central Heating Plant is more efficient and environmentally friendly than burning coal, natural gas was never a long-term solution. Small said that natural gas “was always considered a ‘bridge fuel’ to renewables” until renewable energy became more market available.