Community Climate Fund

In 2015 the Board of Trustees committed to reduce campus “emissions to 35% below 1990 levels by 2020 and purchase sufficient carbon offsets to achieve carbon neutrality by the end of 2020.”  They also committed the college to invest “in projects that reduce carbon emissions in our local region.” In 2017, the college began exploring ways to integrate local projects into the school’s emissions goals. Williams along with its peer institutions Amherst, Smith, and Hampshire hired the Center for EcoTechnology, a local environmental organization, to help design a fund through which the institutions could invest in carbon reduction projects and identify potential projects in the local community.

The college initially explored the possibility of developing these projects as local carbon offsets but found various challenges. The main challenge was demonstrating the additionality (that the project would not have happened without someone purchasing carbon offsets) of many of these projects. Another challenge for these projects was the costs of third-party verification, which for smaller scale, complex projects such as the ones being explored were prohibitively high. A report from the Campus Environmental Advisory Committee (CEAC) Working Group on Carbon Offsets outlines these challenges more extensively and other concerns regarding local offsets. Ultimately the College opted to not consider these projects offsets (nor count them against our emissions) but decided to invest in them nonetheless – as it did not want the qualifications and formality of developing offsets to get in the way of investing in projects that benefited the community and the college.

In developing criteria for the types of projects, the most important elements were that the projects positively impact the surrounding community, especially underserved populations, and that they could provide experiential learning opportunities for students, faculty, and staff. Ultimately this resulted in a mix of project types that support different strategies to carbon reduction. Through the Community Climate Fund, the college has invested over $100,000 in seven projects since Fall of 2019: Building Materials Recovery, Healthy Homes, Heating System Upgrades, and Solar Wall.

  • EcoBuilding Bargains (EBB) is a retail store in Springfield operated by CET to divert valuable used and surplus building materials from landfills and incinerators and sell them at low cost to budget constrained do-it-yourselfer households. Each year, CET helps thousands of individuals complete building and remodeling projects at a lower cost, and creates jobs. EBB relies on donations of building materials from individuals and contractors, and donations are limited by the ability to pick up materials in a timely fashion. CCF funding supported the collection and transport of building materials in Year 1 (fiscal year 2020) that, in turn, yielded significant carbon reduction and therefore the college decided to continue investing in this project for a second year.

    Project Spec Sheet:  CCF Building Materials Recovery Project Spec Sheet
    Williams invested in this project in FY20 and FY21.

    Written by Austin Huang ‘22, Community Carbon Reduction Intern, Spring 2019

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • The Healthy Home projects are investments to improve the condition of homes and address symptom triggers for patients referred by the Berkshire Health System. The projects will include undertaking energy efficiency measures not covered by existing energy efficiency incentive programs and the removal of “roadblocks” to installing energy efficiency improvements (such as excessive moisture and mold). Along with carbon reduction from decreased energy use, these projects help enhance indoor air quality.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Project Spec Sheet:  CCF Healthy Homes Spec Sheet
    Williams invested in this project in FY20.

  • Like Healthy Homes, the Heating System Upgrade projects also focus on households. The Berkshire Community Action Council (BCAC) currently has an initiative to provide weatherization services, heating system replacement, and fuel assistance to low-income households in Berkshire County. They have a waiting list of almost 100 low-income households who need updated heating systems. The project investment will go towards energy-efficient heating systems for these households.

    Project Spec Sheet:  CCF Heating Systems Upgrade Spec Sheet
    Williams invested in this project in FY20 and FY21.

  • The Solar Wall project helped to fund the installation of the SolarWall technology, a passive solar system that integrates into a building’s existing HVAC. It reduces energy usage and subsequently greenhouse gas emissions by warming up the outdoor “intake” air before it goes through the HVAC system. The technology was installed at the Child Care Center of the Berkshires (CCB) in North Adams, MA, an organization providing daycare services for families across the north Berkshire area.

    Williams invested in this project in FY20.

  • CET administers the Massachusetts Farm Energy Program, which assists farms with implementing energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions to reduce costs and the carbon footprint of their operations. They also help farms access state and federal incentives for these solutions, which are provided on a reimbursement basis. CET has found that a significant number of high impact projects get stymied because farms lack the upfront capital – and that will be true now more than ever. The revolving loan fund provides the bridge capital that farms need, and will be repaid upon receipt of incentives. CET will take a modest administrative fee with each loan cycle; however, these funds will be deployed multiple times, yielding significant carbon reduction with each round.

    Williams invested in this project in FY21.

  • The small business market represents a large – and largely untapped – opportunity for energy efficiency measures across Massachusetts. According to the MA Energy Efficiency Advisory Council, small businesses account for 40% of energy consumption and 97% of commercial and industrial customers. However, efforts to improve the energy efficiency of this segment routinely fall short. 

    CET currently has support from the MA Department of Energy Resources to bring innovative approaches to small business weatherization programs. The roadblock removal investment from the CCF will complement this effort by funding measures such as removal of knob-and-tube wiring and asbestos, for which there are no incentives. This investment will enable installation of measures such as insulation, air sealing and heat recovery that significantly reduce carbon and save businesses hundreds or thousands of dollars a year in heating and cooling costs.

    Williams invested in this project in FY21.

  • Peak load shaving is an emerging demand-side management tool for stabilizing the costs of energy generation and reducing reliance on dirty back-up power systems. The Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Energy Cooperative (MMWEC) aims to pilot a peak load management program in communities served by municipal utilities. To enable this innovative program, CCF will invest in bulk installation of Wifi thermostats in low- and moderate-income homes of target communities that would not otherwise be able to afford them (e.g., Holyoke, Chicopee). Wifi thermostats yield immediate carbon reductions for households and will unlock significant system-wide carbon emissions reductions through peak load shaving. Municipal utilities lag significantly behind investor-owned utilities with respect to their renewable energy portfolios and energy efficiency, making this an important demonstration project. Proposed investment: ~$20,000. Estimated emissions reductions: ~13 tons CO2 over the lifetime as a direct result, plus significant additional potential by enabling utilities to offer demand response programs for gas heating and electricity.

    Williams invested in this project in FY21.

The Community Climate Fund aligns with Williams’ commitment to mitigating climate change and making a positive impact on our local community. Going forward, we anticipate continuing to fund local carbon reduction projects, and the sustainability working group included this as a recommendation in their strategic plan draft. The Zilkha Center and the Center for EcoTechnology are currently in conversation with faculty members exploring ways to incorporate the Community Climate Fund into the curriculum in the 2020-2021 academic year. As this project continues, the college plans to further refine and formalize the process for identifying and vetting projects.


 

Community Climate Fund Quarterly Reports

FY 2021 1st quarter report

FY2020 3rd quarter report