Impacts From Energy Consumption On Campus
In 2016 WWU used 132,637,728 Kwh of energy!
Energy is something we don’t think about often, it’s out of sight and out of mind. We flip the switch; light turns on. Turn up the thermostat; it becomes warmer.
But do you know where the electricity comes from on campus?
Or what fuels are used to create your electricity?
Or more importantly, do you know the environmental impacts of using energy every day at Western?
Here at Western, we use a combination of natural gas, steam, and electricity. Electricity generation requires different fuel mixes; for the Pacific Northwest the tradition fuel mix is about 32% conventional hydropower, about 60% fossil fuels, and about 8% renewable energy. Many of you have probably noticed the steam plant on campus, which provides about one-third of the energy used by Western. To create this steam, Western uses natural gas, a fossil fuel that is also used for our kitchen stoves, heating for some parts of campus, and other purposes.
WWU offsets its carbon footprint from its electricity generation by paying a premium price for a renewable fuel mix. We purchase our renewable energy from wind farms that are located out-of-state; in general renewables include solar, geothermal, livestock methane, biogas, and low-impact hydropower.
Now that you know where the electricity and energy comes from on campus, and what fuels are used, it’s time for the juicy part — the environmental impacts of energy use on campus. I am going to show two scenarios:
Scenario A shows the environmental impacts from our energy usage in 2016 if we solely purchased the traditional fuel mix, and did not pay a premium for renewables.
Due to use of natural gas, steam, and purchasing traditional electricity, sourced largely from fossil fuels, here’s what the EPA Equivalency calculations showed:
WWU 2016 yearly energy consumption is equivalent to the carbon sequestered from:
- 35,116 Acres of Us Forest in one year
- 961,401 Tree Seedlings grown for 10 years
With Co2 emissions from:
- 9.4 Wind Turbines
- 5,478 homes electricity for one year
Scenario B, what we currently do:
Scenario B shows the environmental impacts of our energy usage in 2016 after purchasing renewable energy credits (RECS), allowing for 100% renewables as the fuel mix for electricity. This shows how increasing the use of renewables can improve the health of our environment. Because we pay a premium for RECS to offset our carbon emissions from electricity, we are only accountable for emissions from steam and natural gas.
WWU 2016 yearly energy consumption, offset with RECS, is equivalent to the carbon sequestered from:
- 25,053 Acres of Us forest in one year
- 685,902 Tree Seedlings grown for 10 years
With Co2 Emissions from:
- 6.7 Wind Turbines
- 3,908 homes electricity for one year
Due to our commitment to purchase renewable energy to match our electricity use, we have reduced our carbon footprint by about 29%. That means we have helped reduce carbon emissions from electricity in 2016 by 11,718 tons.