A Three-Step Approach to Net Zero for Higher Education

July 1st, 2021


Metrus Energy’s Bob Hinkle delivered a five-minute presentation as part of the June Milestone Session of Second Nature’s Climate Action Pursuit initiative. His talk is summarized below. Click below to watch a recording of Bob’s presentation, courtesy of Second Nature.

Colleges and universities have a critical role to play in both setting a standard and taking actions to mitigate climate change. While thinking globally, schools need to act locally. This means focusing first on the decarbonization of their own buildings and facilities.

By undertaking energy efficiency upgrades within their own built environment – and by implementing on-site, clean renewable energy generation – schools can:

  • Increase the efficiency of facilities where students both live and learn,
  • Reduce carbon emissions and improve the health of their campus and local community; and,
  • Save money by lowing utility bills that can be redirected to the core mission of teaching students or for other pressing on campus projects.

Once the on-campus work is done – and Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions have been reduced – schools should then look to offset their remaining energy load by entering into renewable energy supply agreements or virtual PPAs.

Acting with speed matters. Waiting to implement projects and funding them only when there is available budge or waiting until something breaks results in lost savings, lost economic gains, and unabated carbon emissions.

One way to move forward now is to utilize third-party, Sustainable Energy as a Service (SEaaS) solutions that fund 100% of the upfront cost of projects using a pay-for-performance structure where schools pay on a cost per unit of energy saved or cost per unit of renewable energy generated.

This can allow schools to implement longer payback, more comprehensive projects and do more now versus later.

Sustainable energy as a service is unique in that the measurement of environmental performance is integrated into the actual financing solution since energy savings and renewable energy generation are measured every year.

The operational resiliency of campuses is becoming more critical. Doing more meaningful, comprehensive projects will take on more and more importance as rating agencies begin to consider climate readiness when they look at the financial health of schools.

All of this underscores that it is time to act now and to make your onsite carbon reductions count.