Illustration: Amanda Lowe W.
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How does the U of O compare to post-secondary green energy leaders?

A university campus provides a hub for the country’s most renowned academics and innovators, and over the past several decades some of the greatest innovations in the world have been made in the field of green energy.

Naturally, if university campuses are supposed to be bastions of innovation, they should be running on sustainable green energy. While several campuses across the country use sustainable or green energy, a few in particular are leading the charge, such as the University of Northern British Columbia and the University of Alberta.

Although the University of Ottawa is unique in its location, budget, and other resources, it’s important that the university continuously monitors other similar institutions to generate ideas to modernize their sustainable energy portfolio.

With this in mind, we took a look at the universities in Canada that are most adept at integrating sustainable energies into campus life. These institutions go beyond the typical campus waste reduction programs, and push the limit on ‘standard’ post-secondary energy practices.

The University of Northern British Columbia

UNBC goes so far as to brand themselves as “Canada’s Green University,” and it definitely lives up to the title from a renewable energy standpoint. For example, through the BC Hydro Energy Manager program UNBC is on track to meet its 2020 energy targets of reducing electrical and thermal energy consumption combined by 25 per cent, and reducing fossil fuel use for heating by 85 per cent.

UNBC has found success by using a revolving loan system, essentially a $250,000 line of credit which provides project funding, and then recoups the investment via project savings. Through this, UNBC has not only funded massive green energy renovations to its campus but taken control of their carbon footprint, reducing their non-biogenic greenhouse gas emissions by 71 per cent since 2010.

The University of Alberta

At the U of A, major investments are being made to the on-campus green energy infrastructure. In particular, they’ve been working to install the largest portfolio of renewable energy generation in Canada’s post-secondary sector via the university’s Envision Energy Reduction program.

In 2012, the U of A committed to investing $35 million dollars over the course of seven years in order to reduce its CO2 emissions by 30,000 tonnes per year, eventually making a return on their investment by saving approximately $4.5 million dollars annually.

As well, the U of A is making massive changes to its campus infrastructure through the use of solar panel technology, and investments in solar-thermal technology for campus heating. For example, the Camrose Performing Arts Centre uses almost 500 solar modules, making it one of the largest solar electric systems in the country and making the centre the highest rated Green Globes building ever certified.

Key takeaways from these post-secondary leaders

These investments in solar technology from UNBC and the U of A have been more than successful, and with the price of solar technology steadily decreasing year by year, it makes more sense than ever for other universities to jump on board.

Despite a relatively high ranking by the UI GreenMetric, the last available statistics from the U of O indicate that the university has missed its energy reduction goals by more than 75 per cent. New investments in green energy could put the U of O, and other Canadian campuses that have missed their energy reduction targets, back on track quickly and affordably, future proofing the campus and keeping costs low for years to come.