Smart Energy Voices- Episode 90

Smart Energy Voices- Episode 90

Heard at Net Zero Forum: Insights from the Higher Education Sector

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At its recent Net Zero Forum, Smart Energy Decisions recorded onsite interviews with energy customers at various stages of their decarbonization strategies. This episode features conversations with energy customers in higher education. This series of interviews aims to provide listeners with insights and inspiration to help them on their clean energy journeys.


You'll want to hear this episode if you're interested in...

  • Michigan State’s energy transition plan [03:01]
  • Energy challenges at Michigan State [08:36]
  • Bard College at Simon’s Rock’’s energy projects and goals [14:56]
  • Proving a business case at private colleges [16:39]
  • Sustainability at California State [25:19]
  • Funding challenges at a large public university [30:19]
  • Inclusivity and sustainability goals [37:46]

Sustainability at Michigan State

Michigan State University started its energy transition plan 11 years ago with the goal of achieving carbon neutrality and 100% renewable energy. The university has had the unique advantage of having its own microgrid since 1894. In 1964, the university built the first cogeneration power plant, which produces 900 psi steam to heat buildings across campus.

This system is an efficient operation on paper, but a greater need for electricity and better building insulation through the years has changed the balance between steam and electricity needs. The university is taking incremental steps to balance the power plant bank. Its newest project is high-efficiency reciprocating gas engines, which have enabled the university to integrate solar because intermittency can be balanced in the microgrid from the gas-fired power plant.

A proactive approach at Bard College at Simon’s Rock

Bard College at Simon’s Rock (a unit of Bard College) strives to become environmentally friendly in every way possible. Recently, the college created a composting program. Transitioning to clean energy supplies and microgrids is a significant part of the college’s green initiatives, and the college is working on its first building electrification project.

Setting a price on carbon is essential for making decisions related to sustainability projects for institutions like Bard College, and a significant part of the green energy journey is to look at building renovations with a net-zero perspective. Being proactive will enable an organization to achieve net zero, even if that goal takes years to fully realize.

CSU’s sustainability journey

The California State University (CSU) is the largest public university system in the United States. Despite having many departments with individual goals, CSU has made a concerted effort to prioritize sustainability across the board. Every department can influence sustainability, and in 2022, the Board of Trustees passed a comprehensive sustainability policy encompassing academic and student life objectives and operational goals. All aspects of university operations were considered, ensuring a thorough approach to sustainability.

Despite expanding campus infrastructure, CSU has kept its energy usage levels consistent for the past decade. The numerous solar installations across the campuses highlight CSU’s commitment to renewable energy sources. The institution has also undertaken deep efficiency projects, resulting in significant energy cost savings.

Connect with Dr. Wolfgang Bauer

Dr. Wolfgang Bauer is a University Distinguished Professor at Michigan State University, where he has been on the faculty since 1988, holding a dual appointment at the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory. He was chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy from 2001 to 2013 and Founding Director of the Institute for Cyber-Enabled Research from 2009 to 2013. From 2013 to 2020 Dr. Bauer served as Senior Consultant and Associate Vice President, driving the implementation of the Energy Transition Plan at Michigan State University. In 2019 he was also President of the MSU Foundation. Dr. Bauer is co-owner of several businesses in the renewable energy sector and has consulted on renewable energy issues for the fossil fuel industry and hedge funds. He has published over 200 research articles, conference proceedings, and books, and has given over 400 invited presentations in 25 countries.

Connect with Jason Maronde

Jason Maronde is a Facilities Management Professional from Bard College at Simon's Rock. He loves to explore new energy technology and find the potential for energy improvements in every situation. Jason is an active volunteer firefighter and lives on top of a mountain.

Connect with Lindsey Rowell

Lindsey Rowell is the Chief of Energy, Sustainability & Transportation for the California State University system in the Office of the Chancellor. Her department is responsible for issuing policy directives, program development and serves in an advisory capacity to support the 23 CSU campuses in achieving their carbon neutrality, energy efficiency and alternative transportation goals. The department also works closely with campuses to address issues of climate equity and strategies to address the worsening climate crises. Prior to this role Lindsey served as the Deputy Director for Sustainability for the CA Department of General Services and has worked developing sustainability and energy management programs for public agencies for the last 15 years.

Lindsey has a Bachelor’s of Science in Neurobiology with a minor in Environmental Science from Sacramento State University, and Master’s of Public Administration and Master’s of Business Administration from CSU Dominguez Hills and CSU Monterey Bay, respectively.


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