With temperatures rising globally, fossil fuels becoming more scarce and expensive, and oil spills impacting both the environment and economy, it is clear there is a need for an alternative to fossil fuels. Renewable energy addresses all these issues– it does not pollute, it is an infinite resource, and it is accessible internationally.
The State University of New York is preparing itself to be out in front of the efforts to use more renewable energy. In April of 2019, Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson announced that SUNY was joining forces with New York State’s energy agencies to launch the Clean Energy Roadmap, which will accelerate progress toward Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030. The Chancellor’s vision outlines avenues for successful growth in environmental sustainability, statewide clean energy, net zero buildings, workforce development, and opportunity for research, innovation, partnerships and educations in the clean energy field.
The NY Higher Education Large Scale Renewable Energy (NY HE LSRE) consortium is one step taken to work towards achieving these goals. Comprised of 16 SUNY campuses and four private colleges, NY HE LSRE will use its collective purchasing power to develop new renewable projects by contracting for renewable energy at scale. The process will normalize the cost of electricity for the individual colleges and reduce volatility in each institution’s energy budget. The NY HE LSRE process will eventually expand to all 64 SUNY campuses, which will help advance Governor Cuomo’s statewide goal of having 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2040. The following SUNY campuses have already signed on:
“By taking a cooperative approach to the purchase of renewable energy, these campuses will be better able to meet their sustainability goals and reduce their reliance on fossil fuels,” said SUNY Chancellor Johnson. “The consortium provides a cost-effective way of achieving campus carbon neutrality, with the power to transform the regional renewable energy market. It also creates important partnership among New York’s higher education institutions.”
SUNY has already reduced its carbon footprint from 1.02 million metric tons in 1990 to 770,000 metric tons in 2017, decreasing its greenhouse emissions by nearly 25 percent, at the same time as increasing the system’s total square footage by 50%. To achieve this, SUNY has improved the physical state of campus buildings; developed energy management plans, best practices, and standards; enhanced the skills of on-site staff resources and applied learning opportunities; and strengthened research efforts focused on developing new clean energy technologies and solutions.
All this work is developing all the time, yet the benefits are already being made visible. With a continued focus on our consumption and the types of energy that powers our buildings, we can continue inching closer to a cleaner, greener future.
Taryn Rackmyer is a recent graduate of Mohawk Valley Community College, now attending the University at Albany for Public Policy. Taryn is a student assistant for SUNY's Government Relations & Marketing Department.