EPA ranks UC Santa Cruz the sixth largest 'green power' purchaser among campuses

SANTA CRUZ, CA-A vote by UC Santa Cruz students to boost their own fees to enhance campus support for "green power" has brought national recognition from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The EPA's College and University Green Power Partners, which promotes purchases of renewable resources, has named UC Santa Cruz its sixth largest green power purchaser in the country. The list is based on purchases through Dec. 31, 2006. (See the EPA's top 10 list.

"Based on national average utility subregion emissions rates, the U.S. EPA estimates that UC Santa Cruz's purchase is equivalent to avoiding the carbon dioxide emissions of nearly 7,000 cars per year, or avoiding the equivalent carbon dioxide emissions associated with nearly 3.6 million gallons of gasoline annually," said James Critchfield of the EPA's Climate Protection Partnerships Division.

"EPA applauds the University of California at Santa Cruz for its recent purchase of green power," said Bill Wehrum, acting assistant administrator of EPA's office of air and radiation. "The students, faculty and administration are taking action to address the impact they have on the environment. They are also looking out for their own mascot--the banana slug--one of nature's most unique species. It's an excellent example of how sustainability can be linked to the broader educational mission of a university."

"UC Santa Cruz is honored to be included in this elite list," said UC Santa Cruz Acting Chancellor George Blumenthal. "Our students' purchase of renewable energy is an especially heartening contribution to our efforts to promote conservation and clean energy throughout campus. I want to thank our students for their generosity and the UC Santa Cruz Physical Plant for its effectiveness in making this recognition possible."

Students voted last spring to pay $3 more in tuition each quarter to purchase clean, sustainable energy. Tapping the student-generated fund, the campus purchased 50 million kilowatt hours of clean energy in the form of renewable energy certificates. The purchase, on top of UC Santa Cruz's already existing electrical contract for 5 million kilowatt hours of renewable power, means the campus is now considered 100 percent green-offsetting all its projected electrical consumption for fiscal 2006-07.

"The UCSC clean energy ballot initiative is a clear example of how students can take leadership on their campus and push for tangible change," said Tommaso Boggia, the student who spearheaded the effort for a fee increase. "Students and administrators have joined forces to fight global warming," Boggia said. "Only by continuing to reduce and refocus our consumption patterns will we be able to protect our planet."

Boggia, who plans to graduate in June, now works with UC Santa Cruz Physical Plant energy manager Patrick Testoni, and the two hope the campus's green energy purchases can become a model for the rest of the UC system. The UCSC purchase agreement with Sterling Planet includes a clause extending the low price to other campuses that may follow its lead.

"Serious use of clean, sustainable energy on a large scale is no longer a dream for the future--it's here," said U.S. Rep. Sam Farr. "I'm proud of the students here at UCSC for proactively voting to turn their campus into a green energy campus. California, the UC system, and UCSC in particular have a tradition of being innovators, not just in developing new ideas but in implementing those ideas. It's good to see that tradition continue," he added.

Green power includes electricity that is entirely generated from clean resources, such as solar, wind, geothermal, biogas, biomass, and low-impact hydropower. It is considered cleaner than conventional sources of electricity and has lower carbon dioxide emissions, a greenhouse gas linked to global climate change. Purchases are designed to accelerate the development of new renewable energy nationwide. At UCSC, the renewable energy sources purchased from Sterling Planet, a national renewable energy provider, were wind, solar, geothermal, hydropower, biomass, and landfill gas.

The renewable energy purchase is part of a larger commitment to renewable energy and environmental awareness throughout the UCSC campus. UCSC already participates in the alliance to save energy's green campus program and has partnered with the California public utilities commission and investor-owned utilities to retrofit equipment for conservation purposes. Completion of equipment retrofitting and energy-efficient building design has resulted in savings of 975,000 kilowatt hours of electricity and 26,000 therms of natural gas annually. Alternative-transportation programs include vanpooling, bicycle shuttles, carpooling, and Metro bus access for all faculty, students, and staff. Water use has also been targeted, resulting in a 32 percent reduction in per-student water consumption over the past 10 years. Issues of sustainability in agriculture have been confronted as well, with a mandate that locally grown organic produce be served in campus dining halls and eateries and that used cooking oil be recycled.

Environmental issues play a major role in classrooms and in campus research as well. UC Santa Cruz's environmental studies program, established in the early 1970s as one of the first such programs in the nation, focuses on conservation biology, environmental policy, political economy, and agroecology and sustainable food systems. The Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems is a leader in research into the environmental and social justice aspects of food production.

Systemwide, the UC Board of Regents has established a green building and clean energy policy to minimize the university's environmental impacts.