BGSU defends energy efforts
Written by JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN, Sentinel County Editor
Thursday, 25 April 2013 07:54
Bowling Green State University officials are committed to clean energy - but with a slow steady approach, not with a reckless rush.
"We want to make sure we get it right," said Dr. Bruce Meyer, assistant vice president of campus operations. Moving too quickly has huge monetary risks, he said. "We're not spending hundreds of dollars. We're talking about spending millions of dollars."
The university has been under fire recently from a student organization called Environmental Action Group, which has demanded that BGSU convert to 100 percent clean energy by 2020. The group has led a protest on campus, flooded the university president's office with more than 500 phone calls, and held a sit-in in McFall Center last week.
Meyer and Dr. Nick Hennessy, BGSU sustainability coordinator, have met with the student group three times.
"I think we've done a really good job listening to them," Hennessy said. "We are just moving at a different pace than they are demanding."
University leaders aren't opposed to reaching the goal of 100 percent clean energy in seven years - they just aren't sure if they can meet that "totally arbitrary" deadline, Meyer said.
"We feel that from a reasonability standpoint, we don't want to commit to 2020 as a deadline," Hennessy said.
Meyer assured that BGSU is committed to reducing its carbon footprint.
"We are very big supporters," he said. But the university must study the clean energy options to make sure the changes are affordable.
"You have to make sure you can implement them," Meyer said. "So we choose the right renewable energy to move forward with."
BGSU took a big step toward clean energy last fall when President Mary Ellen Mazey signed the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment. According to Meyer and Hennessy, BGSU students played a major role in that decision. "We wanted their input," Hennessy said.
The agreement commits BGSU to becoming "carbon neutral" by a date that has not yet been determined. Members of the Environmental Action Group are not happy with the lack of a deadline in the contract.
"It doesn't provide a date of seven years to have everything transferred over," Hennessy said.
But Meyer and Hennessy pointed out the agreement requires BGSU to come up with a carbon neutral plan within three years.
"There's a whole host of Presidents' Climate Commitment instructions of when we need to report progress," Hennessy said.
Meyer also noted that the city of Bowling Green, where the university buys its electric from, is making major changes.
"There's a noticeable switch to green energy sources," he said.
"There are a lot of universities that still have coal-fired plants," Meyer said.
Meyer and Hennessy also mentioned clean energy efforts already made on campus. In fact, the efforts recently earned BGSU a place in The Princeton Review's Guide to 322 Green Colleges.
"You meet a pretty rigorous set of qualifications to make that list," Meyer said.
For example, the university has adopted energy conservation measures for lighting, heating and cooling. "That has dramatically reduced our energy usage. We're starting to see those savings right now," Meyer said.
BGSU has worked on waste reduction and recycling programs, and has set up a Green Fund that students can donate to for clean energy efforts.
"They are getting a much better view of what it takes to be sustainable," Meyer said of students.
University officials will be meeting soon with experts about conducting a geothermal energy study on the campus.
"We could end up with a mix," of geothermal, solar and wind energy, Hennessy said. But each must be thoroughly studied before it is invested in by BGSU.
The one option BGSU isn't considering is buying clean energy credits from institutions that have actually earned them.
"That's not the right thing to do," Meyer said.
Last Updated on Thursday, 25 April 2013 08:07