Environmental Protection Agency ranks UC No. 1 university for green electricity use

Infographic depicting green energy usage by the UC in 2020
Aishwarya Jayadeep/Senior Staff

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, ranked the UC system as No. 1 on its list of the top 30 colleges and universities in terms of green power use.

The EPA’s rank order list, issued July 26, includes the top 30 green electricity users among U.S. higher education institutions that are a part of the Green Power Partnership — a program established by the EPA to increase organizations’ commitments to sustainable energy sources.

“UC Berkeley is proud to be part of the UC system and a contributor to its green power effort,” said Kira Stoll, UC Berkeley chief sustainability and carbon solutions officer, in an email.

The EPA defines green power as a subset of renewable energy that provides “the highest environmental benefit by reducing the emissions associated with traditional electricity sources.” Green power sources include wind, solar, geothermal and biomass power, according to the EPA.

In 2020, nearly half of the university’s energy usage relied on green power, translating to a total of 480,801,183 kilowatt-hours of sustainable electricity.

“UC Berkeley has installed six solar PV systems on campus sites that generate more than 1MW of power from the sun,” Stoll said in the email. “More solar sites are being planned. These new sites will more than triple the onsite solar production at Berkeley, adding 3.6 MW of energy production.”

As part of its pledge to end reliance on fossil fuels, the UC system launched its Carbon Neutrality Initiative in 2013, which commits all 10 UC campuses; the UC Office of the President, or UCOP; UC Agriculture and Natural Resources; and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to produce net-zero greenhouse gases by 2025.

The initiative marks the first commitment of its kind by any major university, according to the initiative’s website.

“The initiative leverages UC’s pioneering work on climate change research and furthers its leadership on sustainable business practices,” said Stett Holbrook, spokesperson for UCOP, in an email. “The University will continue to innovate and pursue best practices in its efforts to be a leader in green power.”

CalPIRG — an organization born at UC Berkeley that advocates for the public interest across its several statewide campus chapters — played a substantial role in encouraging campus’s transition to sustainable energy, according to campus rising sophomore Ciara Khor-Brogan, vice chair of UC Berkeley’s CalPIRG chapter.

In 2019, CalPIRG successfully led a campaign pushing UC Berkeley’s commitment to 100% clean energy by 2050. UC Berkeley’s 100% clean energy pledge plans to transition campus services that are most commonly powered by natural gas such as energy production, transportation and heating, to green power sources by 2050.

“A simple walk should not be spoiled by air quality that triggers an asthma attack,” Khor-Brogan said. “For a long time, I took clean, breathable air for granted, and it’s such a basic thing, such a basic right, and it’s in our public interest to have these things. That’s what CalPIRG fights for, the public interest.”

Contact Rachel Raps at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @rachelraps_dc.