Graham Sustainability Institute

U-M Releases 2008 Environment Report

Thursday, December 18, 2008


The amount of energy used to heat, cool and power University of Michigan buildings remained unchanged last year, even though new construction added nearly 500,000 square feet of space to the Ann Arbor campuses.

"The fact that we're able to hold the line on building energy use despite these increasing demands means that our energy-conservation efforts are producing results," said Kenneth Keeler, primary author of the just-published U-M 2008 Environmental Report. Keeler is a pollution prevention specialist at the U-M Department of Occupational Safety and Environmental Health.

The second annual Environmental Report was produced by OSEH with input from the U-M Graham Sustainability Institute, U-M Center for Sustainable Systems and students from the Michigan Student Assembly’s Environmental Issues Commission. The 45-page report tracks the University's efforts to minimize environmental impacts at the Ann Arbor campuses, which cover 3,070 acres and contain 380 buildings. The campus population includes more than 78,000 students, faculty members and staff.

The Environmental Report details U-M energy, water and land use; waste disposal and recycling; and fossil-fuel combustion emissions during Fiscal Year 2008, which ended June 30. It also highlights some of the projects underway, such as Planet Blue and the Climate Savers Computing Initiative, to cut energy consumption and increase recycling. During FY2008, nine major construction and renovation projects were completed on the Ann Arbor campuses, contributing to the 495,807 square feet of new building space added that year. The new space is equivalent to 11.4 acres---more than one-quarter of the original 40-acre campus the University of Michigan occupied when it moved to Ann Arbor in 1837.

Despite the growth, total energy use in U-M buildings held steady at 6.2 trillion BTUs last year. (more) - 2 - The latest Environmental Report also notes that in FY2008: --The 2008 College Sustainability Report Card, published by the Sustainable Endowments Institute, awarded the U-M a grade of B for its overall environmental stewardship efforts, placing the University within the top 5 percent of colleges and universities surveyed for the study. --Water use at the U-M rose less than 1 percent, from 1.29 billion gallons to 1.3 billion gallons. --Nineteen percent of the energy needed to fuel the University's fleet of 1,098 vehicles came from two renewable energy sources---ethanol and biodiesel. --More than 17,000 tons of solid waste were collected at the University, and 29 percent of it was recycled---up from 28 percent the previous fiscal year.

"Annual reporting enables us to look at trends associated with all the metric categories being measured and tracked. We can then use that data to focus future environmental efforts," said co-author Andrew Berki, the environmental stewardship and emergency planning manager at OSEH. In addition to highlighting recent accomplishments, the 2008 Environment Report outlines goals for the future.

One priority is to increase the amount of U-M electricity derived from renewable energy sources, Berki said. About 45 percent of the electricity consumed on the Ann Arbor campuses is generated at the U-M Central Power Plant, a natural gas-fired facility. The plant produces steam that heats and cools Central Campus buildings, and excess steam is fed into turbines to generate electricity. On-campus emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide---mainly from the Central Power Plant---dropped last year. However, overall U-M emissions of CO2 rose by 3.5 percent, due chiefly to an increase in the amount of electricity the University bought from DTE Energy, which uses coal-fired power plants. Natural gas is a cleaner-burning fuel than coal. The U-M is working with DTE to include wind-derived electricity in the energy portfolio the utility provides to the University, Berki said.

"Greenhouse-gas emissions are a serious concern," he said. "We'll continue to work with DTE to get renewable energy in the portfolio, and the opportunities look promising with the recent development of wind farms in the state. At the same time, U-M energy-reduction initiatives, such as Planet Blue and the Climate Savers Computing Initiative, should have a direct and positive impact on emission levels."

The annual U-M Environmental Report is an outgrowth of the Environmental Task Force established by President Mary Sue Coleman in 2003. The task force recommended that an annual report be written to track the University's progress toward key environmental sustainability goals. 

View the 2008 Environmental Report