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Universities show increased use of renewable energy

Twenty-six universities and colleges across the United States received a grading of A- for their use of renewable energy on campus.

A total of 332 schools in the US and Canada were evaluated on their use of renewable energy in the ‘College Sustainability Report Card 2010' produced by the Sustainable Endowments Institute. The rankings reflects 48 indicators in categories such as Climate Change & Energy, Green Building, Administration, Food & Recycling, Transportation, Student Involvement, Endowment Transparency, Shareholder Engagement and Investment Priorities.

Of 149 schools which reported the use of renewable energy, a score of A- was awarded to Amherst College (MA), Arizona State University-Tempe (AZ), University of California-San Diego (CA), University of Colorado (CO), Dickinson College (PA),  Harvard University (MA), Luther College (IA), Macalester College (MN), Middlebury College (VT), University of Minnesota  (MN), University of New Hampshire (NH),  University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (NC), Oberlin College (OH), Pacific Lutheran University (WA), Pomona College (CA), Smith College (MA), Stanford University (CA), University of Washington (WA), Wesleyan University  (CT), Williams College (MA), and Yale University (CT).

Another 28 schools scored B+ and 7 institutions scored a mark of D on renewable energy use.

Two out of every five schools purchase renewable energy, either through the purchase of green power directly from their utility or through renewable energy credits equivalent to a percentage of their energy use. Nearly half of the schools produce renewable energy on campus, with solar, wind, bioenergy or geothermal systems in operation.

The report details the actions of leading universities through installation renewable energy such as geothermal heating and cooling, cogeneration, solar water heating, wind turbines, biofuels and solar PV systems, including Arizona State University which is expanding its solar arrays to 20 MW by 2011.

Despite investment losses and fluctuating energy costs, many schools scored higher on green assessments during the last year, the report explains. The 332 schools have combined holdings of US$325 billion, with average endowment value dropping by 23% in the past year.

“Surprising the skeptics, most schools we surveyed did not let financial reversals undermine their green commitments," says Mark Orlowski, executive director of the Sustainable Endowments Institute. “New financial realities encouraged saving money by adopting environmentally friendly innovations."

"Colleges are now taking pride in greener campuses and sustainability-savvy investments, increasingly important concerns for parents and students in choosing a school," adds Orlowski. A recent survey indicated that 68% of 12,715 high school students applying to college, said they would value having information about a college's commitment to the environment.

A significant percentage of schools have endowment investments in renewable energy funds. Currently, 44% of schools report having endowment investments in renewable energy and another 48% report exploring endowment investments in renewable energy.

Data collection for the report took place from June to September, using information from publicly-available documentation and then four surveys sent to each school. More than 96% participated in at least one of the four surveys, while 14 schools declined participation in all four.

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