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Greenhouse Gas Reduction

Overview

Princeton's primary greenhouse gas goal is to reduce direct carbon dioxide emissions to 1990 levels (95,000 metric tons) by 2020 -- some 18,000 metric tons less than the current amount. This goal is to be accomplished while adding square footage and without the purchase of offsets. The University seeks to achieve reductions through conservation, application of energy-saving technologies, renewable energy generation and behavior change.

The strategies employed to reach the goal include:

Cogen plant
Princeton's cogeneration plant, which began operating in 1996, provides both steam and electricity to the campus. The steam heats nearly all the campus buildings and, in the summer, runs machines that chill water for air conditioning. The cogeneration plant burns primarily natural gas with oil backup (and, in trials, biodiesel) to make steam as well as approximately half of the electricity used on campus. The fuel runs a jet engine almost identical to those used in some military airplanes. The thrust from the engine drives an electrical generator, while the hot exhaust boils water for steam.
  • investing $45 million between 2009 and 2017 to reduce overall utility usage on campus by at least 25 percent, in part by improving the efficiency of the high-performance central cogeneration plant and the buildings it serves (which account for approximately 85 percent of the University's emissions). These initiatives are being coordinated through an Energy Master Plan.
  • increasing building efficiency in new non-laboratory construction and major renovations to achieve 50 percent less energy cost than a comparable off-campus building; and increasing building efficiency in laboratories and data centers to compete with industry leaders.
  • designing all projects to an equivalent of at least LEED Silver (Princeton has created its own Sustainable Building Guidelines, augmenting the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification program, a nationally accepted benchmark).

Transportation accounts for the second largest source of campus emissions. Through its Transportation Demand Management program, the University has programs to encourage car pooling and the use of public transportation to reach its goal of reducing the number of cars commuting to campus by 10 percent by 2020.

At the outset of the Sustainability Plan, the University had identified 70 percent of the operational strategies needed to achieve its 2020 greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal. Since 2008, an additional 9 percent (or more than 1,200 metric tons CO2) of the University's "to be discovered" strategies have been determined.