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Climate and Energy

The American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment

As a signatory of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), St. Mary’s has pledged to become climate neutral through energy consumption reductions, investment in onsite renewable energy sources, and carbon offsets.

Renewable Energy Systems

During the summer of 2013, a geothermal heating system was installed under the hill in front of the Admissions Offices.  The geothermal heat pump is expected to reduce the cost of heating the building by 50% and the cost of cooling the building by 30%. This system will help reduce electrical consumption by approximately 11,000 KWh per year and result in 7.7 fewer metric tons of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere each year.  The geothermal heat pump system at the Admissions Office was funded entirely by the Green St. Mary’s Revolving Fund (GSMRF), a program that was designed to fund green initiatives at St. Mary’s College of Maryland.  Student-designed proposals for green ideas are paid for using the GSMRF, and the savings in energy from those projects accumulate within the GSMRF to fund future green initiatives.

Another geothermal heating system is in place at the River Center, and it allows the facility to run 40% more efficiently than a conventional building, saving the College money while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 270 tons a year! This heating system was made possible by the student body, which in 2007 provided $65,000 (1/2 of the needed revenue) for the project.

In addition, we have a 3kW solar photovoltaic array on the roof of the College’s library. The new Anne Arundel Building, to be constructed in 2015, will contain a 19kW array.  The Sustainability Committee is currently looking into creative ways to finance a much larger solar system on campus, which would assist in our emissions reductions targets under the Climate Action Plan.

Renewable Energy Credits (RECs)

In the spring of 2007, St. Mary’s students overwhelmingly voted to increase their annual student fees by $25 in order for the College to purchase renewable energy credits to offset 100% of the campus’s electrical consumption. In addition, the vote also called for a one-time contribution of $45,000 from the SGA to SMCM to cover the first-year expenses of this program. Since then, the College has been able to increase the purchase of RECs without use of additional funds. Currently the College purchases 22,000 MWh per year of green energy, offsetting roughly 100% of our electricity usage. The RECs offset about 12,000 metric tons of CO2, making St. Mary’s College one of the largest purchasers of green power in the region. This has enabled the College to be the leader in the EPA’s Green Power Partnership, Capital Athletic Conference Championship for the past four years.

Energy Efficiency

Improving our energy efficiency is a very effective and financially advantageous way to reduce the College’s carbon footprint. The projects highlighted below show some of the steps the College is taking to reduce emissions and promote more efficient use of energy.

What can you do?

To see how you can improve your energy efficiency, see the Green Resources page.

Energy Performance Contract

In an energy performance contract (EPC), an outside firm guarantees a certain amount of cost savings by implementing energy efficiency improvements. The firm is then paid over several years using the money saved by the contract’s stipulated efficiency upgrades. In 2007, the campus entered a $2.8 million contract managed through the Maryland Department of General Services. By entering the contract and conducting the efficiency upgrades, the College’s electricity consumption was reduced by 16.5%, #2 oil use by 23%, and water usage by 34% in 2010. In addition to reducing our carbon footprint, it is estimated that these efficiency measures save the College approximately $350,000 annually. Since 2010, St. Mary’s has taken a step backward in energy efficiency, which is why it is imperative that we motivate students and staff to value the energy we use.

We hope to enter a second EPC at the end of our contract and be able to implement projects such as:

  • Upgraded lighting and occupancy sensors
  • Boiler replacements
  • Weatherization projects
  • Energy Management System upgrades

Community Feedback

Over the past several years, the Sustainability Committee has gathered dozens of ideas from campus constituents on how to cut the College’s energy consumption between 15-20%. Some of these ideas are already being implemented, saving SMCM energy and money.

If you are interested in energy conservation, check out our draft report(PDF) of energy saving ideas. If you have any other ideas for how to save energy, contact the Sustainability Fellow.