Energy Module Content

Energy: The Problem

A certain level of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, keep our planet at a temperature that is hospitable. However, too many greenhouse gases, primarily those caused by excessive fossil fuel use, cause rising temperatures (global warming) and associated changes in our weather patterns (climate change). In our region, this can cause an increase in extreme weather events, the spread of warmer climate diseases, shifting vegetation types, and an influx of invasive species. These effects put our vulnerable populations at risk and can come with great economic costs. 

As seen in the video above, the University of Michigan is already taking steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but these can be improved with your ideas and actions to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions both on campus and off

Energy: U-M Goals and Progress

Our Guiding Principle: We will pursue energy efficiency and fiscally-responsible energy sourcing strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions toward long-term carbon neutrality.

Our 2025 Goals:

  • Reduce Scope 1 & 2* greenhouse gas emissions 25% below 2006 levels.

  • Decrease the carbon intensity of passenger trips on U-M transportation options by 30% below 2006 levels.                         
 
 
 

Our Progress: Total greenhouse gas emissions in FY2018 were 630,000 MTCO2 (7% reduction) -- still above the  510,000 MTCO2 goal for 2025, even after accounting for the acquisition of the North Campus Research Complex (NCRC). The carbon intensity of university passenger trips has decreased to 1.01 kg/trip (14% reduction), approaching the .82 kg/trip goal.

U-M President’s Commission on Carbon Neutrality: President Schlissel announced on October 4, 2018 that U-M will pursue a path toward carbon neutrality, and tasked a Presidential Commission with determining a timeline, pathway, and approaches for U-M to do so. The Commission’s scope spans all three campuses and includes carbon emissions and sequestration; energy sourcing; technology development and policy change; facilities, operations, and mobility; and behavioral change. If you have comments or ideas for the commission, please submit them via the Planet Blue website.

Energy: U-M Efforts

What is U-M doing to pursue our 2025 Energy Goals? The efforts listed below are some key initiatives enabling us to make progress:

Renewable Energy: In 2019, U-M agreed to buy renewable energy through DTE Energy that will result in about half of the purchased electricity for the Ann Arbor campus coming from Michigan-made renewable resources. Combined with other efforts, the agreement will enable U-M to achieve its 2025 greenhouse gas reduction goal. On campus, U-M currently has two sites with solar panels through DTE Energy’s Solar Currents Program. These panels are owned by DTE and generate power for all DTE customers. Both sites are on North Campus (one along Plymouth Rd. and another on Fuller Rd.). Interactive kiosks about these installations can be found in NCRC Building 18 and in the Duderstadt Center. In addition, the Dana Building as well as the Strawbale Building at the U-M Campus Farm have small, rooftop solar installations. 

Central Power Plant Expansion: At U-M, our electricity is sourced from the local utility DTE Energy, which primarily uses coal, and our own Central Power Plant (CPP), which runs on natural gas and provides a combination of steam, electricity, compressed air, and hot water to our Central and Medical Campuses. U-M is working on an expansion of the CPP that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 80,000 metric tons per year, lowering emission levels approximately halfway toward the university’s 2025 Goal. You can read more about the expansion project from the University Record.

Green Building Standards: At U-M, all new buildings and additions with an estimated construction budget greater than $10 million are designed to achieve a minimum of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification. In addition, these projects must be 30 percent more energy efficient than the nationally recognized standard set by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). Several buildings on campus are currently under review for LEED certification, and 14 total have been designated to date. You can view a complete list of LEED projects on the U-M Architecture, Engineering and Construction website.

Regional Energy Managers: For existing, general fund buildings across campus, Regional Energy Managers evaluate and implement energy conservation measures such as LED lighting upgrades, steam trap testing, motion sensor installation, and insulation upgrades. Since 2006, energy use per square foot in general fund buildings has decreased by about 26%. You can look up the energy use of most buildings on campus on the Office of Campus Sustainability website, and if you have questions or would like to report energy waste, please email energyconservation@umich.edu.

Energy Efficiency at Michigan Medicine: Since 2005, Michigan Medicine has generated energy savings yielding a total of 23% improvement in energy use per square foot, and has received a sustainability award from Practice Greenhealth for the last 15 years. You can share ideas for further energy savings at the medical center by emailing MMrecycle@umich.edu.

Energy: How You Can Help

As one of the 93,000 people on campus, there are plenty of ways you can help U-M achieve our 2025 Energy Goals. The opportunities listed below are impactful ways you can make a difference on campus and at home. 

Use Sustainable Transportation: Since 2011, U-M has purchased 30 biodiesel hybrid buses, which are approximately 30% more efficient than conventional buses. In addition, U-M has made its “Blue Buses” as well as AAATA “The Ride” buses free for U-M students, staff, and faculty. You can look up additional resources about busing, zipcars, carpooling, vanpooling, electric vehicle charging stations, biking, SPIN scooters, Emergency Ride Home services, and more on the Logistics, Transportation, and Parking website.

Apply for a Grant: The Planet Blue Student Innovation Fund awards grants of up to $50,000 annually for student-led projects that reduce the university’s environmental footprint and/or promote a culture of sustainability on campus. Past grants have made possible renewable energy projects such as the solar picnic tables near Palmer Commons and the Grove, and solar panels at the Campus Farm Strawbale Building.

Adjust Thermostat Settings: Heating and cooling typically make up a large portion of building energy use. At U-M, we encourage staff to keep thermostats set within the recommended range of 68°F to 76°F (closer to 68° in the winter, and closer to 76° in the summer). You can request free posters, stickers, and magnets to display in your work area that help people remember these thermostat settings, as well as other ways to save energy.

Unplug Electronics: Unplug chargers, appliances, and electronics when not in use or use a power strip! Even when turned off, these items can use electricity, but by unplugging them or using a power strip to turn them off, you can prevent them from pulling electricity from the wall. To determine how much energy an electronic device uses, you can rent a “Kill-A-Watt” meter from either the Shapiro or Ann Arbor District Libraries.

Switch to LEDs: When choosing light bulbs, choose LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes). They are more efficient than both CFLs (Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs) and traditional incandescent bulbs, and they last longer, too. In addition, LEDs do not contain mercury, so they are easier to dispose of and are less hazardous than CFLs. 

Sustainable Computing: Using power management settings on a computer can save up to 23% of its energy use, while shutting down office equipment in the evening will save an additional 9%. U-M offers more information and support through sustainablecomputing.umich.edu

Sustainable Labs: Labs consume 4-5 times the amount of energy as classrooms or traditional offices. For example, closing fume hoods when not in use saves a massive amount of energy. Learn more energy-saving tips through the Sustainable Lab Recognition Program from the Office of Campus Sustainability.