September 2020 Update on Progress to our 2020 Goals

In 2015, President Falk and the Board of Trustees committed to reducing ghg emissions and achieving carbon neutrality by the end of 2020.  During our most recent emissions check-in –  the 2019 fiscal year (FY19) emissions report – the outlook didn’t look promising.  A significant chunk of the gap will be covered by the Farmington Solar Project, an off-campus utility scale project that is a collaboration between five New England Colleges.  Although the Farmington Project has experienced some construction delays pushing back the operation date by a year to September 2021, the college will purchase renewable energy credits beginning this month.  It has recently become clear that the remaining gap is partially due to an overreliance on the purchased electricity emissions reductions from the Farmington Solar Project, which after the college moved to a more accurate measurement of plant-level emissions data, lowered the electricity share of our emissions.  Another measurement change – an improvement in our air travel data collection has increased the amount of air travel data and subsequently the emissions associated with that travel.  The building related conservation projects completed in the past five years have been impactful and in retrospect, more focus should have been put on building and transportation emissions reductions. As the challenges with the approach for the 2020 goals have come into focus, they greatly influenced the sustainability working group’s proposal for the next 10-15 years.  

So what’s next? This fall the Zilkha Center will conduct the FY20 greenhouse gas emissions accounting and will report out about the college’s 2020 goals.The college put a hold on business-related air travel during COVID-19 and some of the emissions “savings” will be realized in FY20 (March 15- June 30), while most of it will be reflected in the next emissions report for fiscal year 2021. As mentioned in the COVID-19 section, while construction activities were paused for a few months and emissions were less than anticipated, the preliminary data that we have seen about building energy use has shown less of a reduction than we were expecting.  After the emissions report is completed, the college will purchase carbon offsets to neutralize the remaining emissions.  Check back here later in the fall for the full report.