UMass Amherst can lead the way in renewable energy

2019 has been a tumultuous year. This is the year COVID-19 hit. The year Boston experienced record heat. It was the year the Amazon ra...



2019 has been a tumultuous year. This is the year COVID-19 hit. The year Boston experienced record heat. It was the year the Amazon rainforest burned down.

Despite these obstacles, UMass Amherst rose to the challenge. Through the persistent efforts of students from the MA Public Interest Group (MASPIRG), the Student Government Association (SGA), and other advocacy organizations, the administration formed the Carbon Mitigation Taskforce. It was the start of something really revolutionary.

The main objective of the Carbon Mitigation Working Group was to formulate a comprehensive and in-depth feasibility study to move UMass Amhert to 100% renewable energy for the heating, cooling and power systems of by 2032. Achieving this goal will be revolutionary not only for UMass Amherst, but also for Massachusetts, as the university emits 14% of statewide carbon emissions.

The Carbon Mitigation Working Group established the CMP Core Planning Group, which is currently the working group. The CMP Master Planning group is made up of four committees: installations / implementation, business development, marketing and living lab. Teams of consultants have also partnered with UMass Amherst, including: MEP Associates, Brailsford & Dunlavey, GreenerU and Competitive Energy Services. In addition, professors, staff and students are part of the group, all working on the transition of our campus to the use of 100% renewable energy.

The CMP Master Planning group has made significant progress in this endeavor. For example, they will work on areas for the implementation of carbon neutrality projects. These projects include conversion to low temperature hot water (LTHW), power transmission and a more sustainable design. In addition, there has been progress in hiring RMF engineering groups.

Coalition building has happened with higher education institutions like Williams College, which has just hired senior planning group UMass Amherst CMP to develop a comprehensive carbon mitigation plan. There have been contacts with the Business Development Department which carries out high level research funding and investment opportunities at the state and federal levels. The CMP Master Planning Group Living Lab is set to potentially receive a $ 300,000 Clean Energy Core expansion grant.

The living lab was also instrumental in launching the carbon training program, the first American higher education institution to do so. They also created a campus data request form as a way to create a living laboratory for research and discussion on improving sustainability metrics on campus. The types of data that can be requested include everything from alternative transportation and energy meters to food systems and renewable energy.

While there has certainly been significant progress, more action is needed. To achieve carbon neutrality by 2032, we must begin the transition now in 2021 through both concrete construction and meaningful public dialogue. While we have an internal and informal commitment to transition UMass Amherst to 100% renewable energy by 2032, we have neither made a formal public announcement nor started building infrastructure based renewable energy. A formal declaration would allow other institutions to follow our example and hold the UMass Amherst administration accountable for its promises.

Indeed, finances are crucial to consider. Fortunately, the feasibility study has shown that the financial cash flow break-even point will occur around 2045 and the savings will continue into the future, but only if we invest in this important cause first. With this investment, UMass Amherst has the potential to leave a legacy by caring about sustainability rather than bureaucratic interests. In turn, we will be the leaders of the Commonwealth and of higher education.

While there are certainly roadblocks, the CMP Master Planning group has others that help them in the same endeavors. ESAM has worked tirelessly to negotiate with the administration on climate justice initiatives with the goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2032, as well as creating decent union jobs for affected workers. The main principles of ESAM are: educating the union community, sensitizing students for greater action, forming coalitions with campus / community groups and participating in climate action negotiations. Needless to say, ESAM has brought forward the issue of achieving carbon neutrality while keeping in mind the just and just transition needed for workers and residents of the community.

It goes without saying that time will not stand still. We are currently going through a climate crisis and taking no concrete action will only hold us back. Much work has been done by groups such as ESAM, SGA, CMP Master Planning group and MASSPIRG Students.

However, we will be stronger and more effective if we get the full support of the administration, especially with regard to the public declaration of carbon neutrality by 2032. With a consolidated effort, we will create a more sustainable future and more livable. Together, we can mark a revolutionary legacy.

Caroline Sunuwar is a second year student at UMass majoring in political science, minor in environmental science. She is a member of the MASSPIRG student chapter at UMass.



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