Updated March 25 at 6:25am

Brown takes steps to be more green


PROVIDENCE – Brown University has cut annual energy costs by $3 million and reduced its energy-related greenhouse gas emissions by 29.4 percent in the past five years, according to the school’s 2012 Sustainability Progress Report.

Since 2008, Brown has invested $14 million in energy efficiency projects, including new thermostats, a lighting project and dorm upgrades. According to a release, the school wasn’t worried about the outright cost, citing that “Energy savings will cover the investment; a $2.6 million lighting project will pay for itself in less than five years.”

“Those investments are paying off,” Christopher Powell, director of the Office of Sustainable Energy and Environmental Initiatives in Facilities Management said in a statement. “We’re adding about a half a million dollars each year in new energy savings, which helps us pay for our energy investments and stay ahead of our emissions goals.”

In 2008, university officials committed to reducing the school’s energy-related greenhouse gas emissions by 42 percent by 2020, using 2007 levels as a baseline. Brown is currently 10 percentage points ahead of the annual goal for 2012, which called for a 19 percent reduction.

The school began the Dorm Energy Efficiency Program pilot project last year in the Diman House dorm, which was built in the 1950s. “The goal was to combine physical improvements to the building with a behavioral component that encourages students to make energy-conscious decisions,” said Powell.

The school also made a switch from oil to cleaner-burning natural gas as a fuel for Brown’s central heat plan. “Until last year, limited pipeline capacity kept the plant from using natural gas during the peak days of the heating season. But Facilities Management worked with National Grid, Rhode Island’s natural gas supplier, to expand the pipeline and enable the plant to use gas full time,” said the release.

Other energy projects included updating heating systems, installing high-efficiency lighting and making weatherproofing improvements, among others.

According to the school’s release, each of the energy projects is already generating financial returns in addition to environmental benefits. Lighting projects, which have cost about $2.6 million over the past three years, is saving the school roughly $569,000 per year.

“It’s a good reminder that in the long run, sustainability can be cost effective,” said Powell.

To view the full 2012 Sustainability Progress Report, visit: www.brown.edu.


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