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University of Michigan’s Sustainability Goals in Conversation with Shana Weber

In a recent interview, Shana Weber, the associate vice president for campus sustainability at the University of Michigan, discussed the university’s carbon neutrality goals and the strategies they are employing to achieve them. As the first person to hold this position, Weber emphasized the importance of climate action and the coordination needed to move sustainability objectives forward.

Weber’s background as an ecologist and climate scientist has fueled her passion for environmental work and sustainability. She recalled how students’ interest in sustainability projects sparked her journey in this field, leading to her role at Princeton University before joining the University of Michigan.

A parallel role to Weber’s, the vice provost for sustainability, will soon be introduced at the university. This position will focus on the academic aspects of sustainability, including research and teaching, while Weber’s role primarily centers on the operational aspects. However, both positions will work closely together, particularly in the university’s living lab concept.

Regarding the University of Michigan’s goal to achieve net zero Scope 2 (purchased electricity) emissions by 2025, Weber mentioned that the wind parks in Isabella County currently cover 40% of the university’s electricity needs. Additionally, plans are underway to develop on-campus solar installations and expand off-campus solar using renewable energy credits from Michigan-based sources.

Differentiating between renewable energy credits and carbon credits or offsets, Weber explained that renewable energy credits are associated with specific sources like solar and wind power, while carbon credits encompass a broader range of options. At present, the university is not pursuing carbon credits or offsets.

Weber also shared the university’s decision to install 25 MW of on-site solar arrays across its campuses, emphasizing the importance of visibility and community engagement in demonstrating the possibilities of renewable energy. The locations for these arrays, which will primarily be on parking decks and rooftops, are currently being determined.

Regarding the conversion of existing buildings to sustainable heating and cooling systems, Weber acknowledged the importance of long-term planning and interconnecting with existing infrastructure. She stressed the need to transition away from fossil fuels to achieve carbon neutrality, even if it requires disruptive changes.

Lastly, Weber highlighted the role of the university’s natural gas power plant in the decarbonization process, stating that it is currently an essential part of the transitional strategy.

FAQ Section:

1. What is the University of Michigan’s carbon neutrality goal?
– The university’s carbon neutrality goal is to achieve net zero Scope 2 (purchased electricity) emissions by 2025.

2. What percentage of the university’s electricity needs are currently covered by wind parks in Isabella County?
– Currently, wind parks in Isabella County cover 40% of the university’s electricity needs.

3. What plans are underway for the development of solar installations?
– The university plans to develop on-campus solar installations and expand off-campus solar using renewable energy credits from Michigan-based sources.

4. What is the difference between renewable energy credits and carbon credits or offsets?
– Renewable energy credits are associated with specific sources like solar and wind power, while carbon credits encompass a broader range of options.

5. Is the University of Michigan pursuing carbon credits or offsets?
– At present, the university is not pursuing carbon credits or offsets.

6. How much on-site solar arrays will the university install?
– The university plans to install 25 MW of on-site solar arrays.

7. Where will the on-site solar arrays be located?
– The locations for the on-site solar arrays will primarily be on parking decks and rooftops. The specific locations are currently being determined.

8. What is the university’s approach to converting existing buildings to sustainable heating and cooling systems?
– The university acknowledges the importance of long-term planning and interconnecting with existing infrastructure for the conversion to sustainable heating and cooling systems.

9. What is the role of the university’s natural gas power plant in the decarbonization process?
– The natural gas power plant is currently an essential part of the university’s transitional strategy towards decarbonization.

Key Terms/Jargon Definitions:

1. Carbon Neutrality: Achieving a balance between emitting carbon dioxide and removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, resulting in net-zero carbon emissions.

2. Scope 2 Emissions: Greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the generation of purchased electricity, heat, or steam.

3. Renewable Energy Credits: Certificates that represent the environmental attributes of renewable electricity generated from sources such as solar, wind, or hydro power. They can be used to support renewable energy development and meet sustainability goals.

4. Carbon Credits or Offsets: Units of carbon dioxide equivalent reductions or removals that are used to compensate for or offset emissions in order to achieve carbon neutrality or reduce overall carbon footprint.

Suggested Related Links:
1. University of Michigan Office of Campus Sustainability
2. University of Michigan Campus Sustainability Initiatives
3. University of Michigan Energy and Climate Initiatives

By Howard Rhodes

Howard Rhodes is a prominent figure in the field of sustainable urban planning, with a special focus on renewable energy integration in American cities. His writings and research are centered on the transformative impact of green energy solutions like solar, wind, and hydroelectric power in urban environments. Rhodes advocates for the adoption of these sustainable practices to address the pressing challenges of climate change and energy security. His influential work provides insightful analysis on the economic, environmental, and social benefits of transitioning to renewable energy sources in cityscapes, making him a key voice in the movement towards more sustainable urban futures.