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Greenhouse Gas Reduction


Princeton's primary greenhouse gas goal is to reduce direct campus emissions. The University seeks to achieve reductions through conservation, application of energy-saving technologies, renewable energy generation and behavior change.

Highlights of the University's approach include:

  • reducing campus greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 through local verifiable action and no purchase of offsets.
  • achieving these reductions despite having added 1.5 million square feet to the campus since 1990 and continuing to add square footage over the next 10 years.
CoGen plant
Princeton's cogeneration plant, which began operating in 1996, provides both steam and electricity to the campus. Before building the plant, the University burned natural gas and oil to fire boilers that make steam. The steam heats nearly all the campus buildings and, in the summer, runs machines that chill water for air conditioning. The cogeneration plant burns natural gas and a cleaner grade of oil (and recently biodiesel) to make steam as well as nearly all 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.

The strategies employed to reach the goal include:

  • investing $40 million over the next 10 years 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 will be coordinated through the development of an Energy Master Plan.
  • increasing building efficiency by designing new construction and major renovations with the goal of reducing energy usage more than 30 percent below a comparable off-campus code compliant building.
  • designing all projects to an equivalent of at least LEED Silver (Princeton has created its own sustainable building guidelines derived from the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification program, a nationally accepted benchmark).

Princeton also has implemented an internal voluntary "CO2 tax" based on average market values when conducting financial cost-benefit analyses to determine whether to undertake more energy efficient designs and technologies. By applying this "tax," the University places a monetary value on its environmental impact, which in turn increases the "savings" that it can achieve by undertaking a project.

Transportation accounts for the second largest source of campus emissions. Through its Transportation Demand Management program, the University now has active programs to encourage car pooling and the use of public transportation. Some 300 campus community members are participating in incentive programs. For its efforts to provide alternative transportation programs for employees who commute, Princeton received the 2009 New Jersey Smart Workplaces Award, Platinum (highest) Level, from the state Department of Transportation.