University of California wins Environmental Protection Agency award for sustainability efforts

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Chou Hall in the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business, which opened in August, aims to be the first zero-waste building on campus by 2018.

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The University of California was awarded the Excellence in Green Power Use Award by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, on Monday for its efforts to reduce emissions and consistently generate sustainable energy.

According to the EPA’s website, the award, presented in conjunction with the nonprofit Center for Resource Solutions, recognizes partners that both exceed the minimum benchmark requirements for green power usage and “demonstrate a distinct market impact through innovation, communications, and stakeholder engagement.”

The award was one of the many 2017 Green Power Leadership Awards presented to a variety of organizations, programs and individuals at the annual Renewable Energy Markets Conference. Other winners in the category include companies such as Google and Microsoft.

“This award both recognizes what efforts we’re doing systemwide and what we’re doing in each of our campuses around renewable energies,” said Kira Stoll, principal planner at the UC Berkeley Office of Sustainability.

The UC had previously entered into long-term purchase agreements for power from two solar farms in California’s Central Valley, the largest solar purchase ever made by a university system in the country.

There are currently five solar locations on campus, including the rooftop solar panels on the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union, Eshleman Hall, Jacobs Hall and the Recreational Sports Facility, as well as the parking-lot solar-panel system at University Village in Albany.

“Berkeley has led the way in doing building energy efficiency audits and using this data to design better building control systems,” said Daniel Kammen, campus energy professor and former science envoy to President Donald Trump’s administration, in an email.

Additionally, some buildings on campus use the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design system, or LEED, to evaluate the environmental performance of a building based on that building’s environmentally friendly features.

“Every construction project that is, I think, over $10 million has to be rated LEED silver-certified, which is not an easy certification to do,” said Tony Hall, campus senior and lead intern for Building Sustainability at Cal, a program that trains student interns in reducing the environmental footprint of campus buildings.

According to Stoll, the campus is considering new locations for more on-site solar panels. The primary issue, she said, is the lack of available space on campus.

“We’re really focused on how we can become carbon-neutral from our campus operation and key to carbon neutrality is clean energy for us,” Stoll said.

The UC is on a track to become carbon-neutral by 2025, an objective announced by UC President Janet Napolitano in 2013, and is working to reduce emissions from buildings’ energy use and vehicle use.

The university has also set a goal of zero waste by 2020. Chou Hall in the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business, which opened in August, aims to be the first zero-waste building on campus by 2018. The building anticipates being LEED platinum-certified in the near future and becoming the United States’ first business school to have a zero-waste building.

“The onsite renewables that we’ve done have been really positive both in terms of adding to our clean power portfolio and in terms of engaging the campus and the student community in sustainable efforts,” Stoll said.

Contact Phil Zhang at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @philzhangDC.