Summary of 2020-21 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Report

The Zilkha Center is currently finalizing the College’s fiscal year 2021 (FY21) greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) report and gratefully acknowledge the support we received from our partners in Facilities Operations and Planning, Design & Construction, Dining Services, the offices of the Provost and Controller, as well as the College’s energy supply management consultant Competitive Energy Services (CES). Today, we would like to share some of the highlights of the College’s last year’s emissions profile.

Total assessed GHG emissions in FY21 were 12,539 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCDE). This represents a 41 percent reduction over the preceding year and a 49 percent decline compared with our baseline year, FY91. 

Graph showing Williams' greenhouse gas emissions which peaked in the early 2000's, and are now roughly under half of those levels
Figure 1: Annual greenhouse gas emissions for scope 1 (direct campus emissions), scope 2 (purchased electricity) and scope 3 (other indirect emissions).

One of the main drivers for the substantial decrease in emissions is, not surprisingly, the sharp contraction of college-sponsored travel due to the pandemic, which saw an 85 percent decline from 4,123 MTCDE in FY20 to 695 MTCDE in FY21. The other main reason is the elimination of our emissions from purchased electricity (scope 2 emissions). Albeit somewhat delayed due to the pandemic, the College’s investment in the construction of the Farmington, ME solar PV project, allowed us to purchase renewable energy certificates (RECs) for 100% of the power purchased for the campus and going forward, Farmington will provide RECs for up to 90 percent of our purchased electricity with the remainder being covered through additional purchases of unbundled RECs. 

New in our FY21 emissions inventory is the inclusion of refrigerant losses, which represent a small (by volume) but powerful source of greenhouse gases. We were also able to include the three Oxford, UK properties in our inventory this year. Both emission additions are small in comparison to those originating at the Williamstown campus, primarily from natural gas combustion at the co-gen plant (10,270 MTCDE, about the same as FY20).

Since FY20 Williams College has purchased carbon offsets to neutralize our emissions. This year, we purchased a total of 24,883 MTCDE of offsets from two previously vetted projects in Honduras (cleaner cookstoves) and Sichuan Province in China (biogas digester and cookstoves) at favorable prices. Of these, 12,539 MTCDE went towards compensating for this year’s emissions, while we are banking the remaining 12,344 MTCDE for future use. 

We thank everyone for doing their part to reduce the College’s carbon emissions and we look forward to sharing the full report in our next newsletter.