Carbon Offsets and RECs
Whenever possible, it is best to use renewables that directly power campus buildings. However, here at CU we have limited space to install wind mills and solar panels, so carbon offsets and renewable energy credits are used to reduce the campus carbon footprint. Carbon offsets represent a reduction in emissions at another location that help offset the emissions created on campus. Funds from carbon offsets go towards carbon emission reduction projects that would not have been possible without the purchase of offsets, such as solar hot water heaters in affordable housing seen in the picture below.
Renewable energy credits (RECs) refer to the purchase renewable energy produced off site that is put into the electrical grid. This renewable energy doesn't directly provide electricity to the desired building, but instead goes to cleaning the overall gird. The purchaser of RECs retains the environmental attributes of that energy.
In 2012, with the support of student government, the Environmental Center purchased 100% offsets for the three CUSG buildings (University Memorial Center, Rec Center and Wardenburg Health), a total of 8,000 metric tons of CO2. The purchase went towards landfill methane capture project in Oklahoma. This methane now fuels a local, family-owned brick-making factory. The purchase was made through Native Energy.
In 2011 the CU Environmental Center purchased enough carbon offsets to reduce the carbon footprint of the three CUSG buildings by over 50%. This purchase was made through the Colorado Carbon Fund to support methane capture at the Larimer County Landfill, solar tube collectors at Apex Center in Arvada, and solar hot water panels in an affordable housing community in Loveland Colorado. To learn more about these projects and the Colorado Carbon Fund, please visit their website.
Solar hot water heaters at Maple Terrace Apartments - 2011 Offset