Campus energy reduction campaigns drive results in 2021 and 2022

Campus Sustainability Office April 18, 2022
Student walking across campus with snow on buildings
In colder months, student and staff behavior on campus makes a large impact in the reduction of campus energy and heating load, reducing Cornell's use of fossil fuels. | Photo: Cornell University

Each Fall and early Winter, the Campus Sustainability Office and Sustainability Teams & Ambassadors host energy-saving campaigns to help Cornell community members engage with steps that reduce our campus energy load and reliance on fossil fuels.  This year, as the campus came back into greater pre-pandemic occupancy levels the energy saving competitions saw large results in reducing energy impacts.

Energy Smackdown saved $160,000 in electricity, identified 14 energy reduction projects in campus buildings

The annual Energy Smackdown competition provided students & employees with new ways to engage in energy-saving actions during the month of December (11/29 - 12/23/2022), in addition to encouraging daily energy-saving actions where they live and work.

During the campaign, the university saw a significant reduction in energy use over the first two weeks, with the day time peak averaging 2.5MW under pre-Thanksgiving break numbers. This was followed by another decline of 2.5MW as campus population reduced when the university shifted to COVID-19 Alert Level Red.

Combined, the electric savings during this period was approximately 2,133,300 kWh ($160,000).

During the campaign, the Energy & Sustainability department launched the first round of a new Campus Energy Reduction Grant program, designed to fund creative projects proposed by faculty, staff, and students.

In total, 14 projects were submitted for energy conservation projects in academic, residential, recreational, and lab buildings across campus. Proposed projects included LED lighting conversion, occupancy sensors, refrigerator replacements (some 25+ years old), thermostat upgrades, weather stripping doors, and more. Grant recipients will be announced in May.

Winter Setback saved $117,000 in electricity & steam

Chart showing Total Campus Electric Demand from 11/1/21 to 1/1/22Winter Setback is part of Cornell's climate action plan as a critical engagement effort to reduce energy and increase energy literacy on campus. Before leaving campus for winter break, Cornell reminds the campus community to unplug and power down unused electronics, reduce heat, turn off lights, and shutdown labs, offices, and residential rooms.

This year's setback saved Cornell over $117,000 during the 2021 winter break (12/24/2021 - 1/2/2022). Over the past decade, this program has saved the university over $1 million in energy costs.

Over the past decade, this program has saved the university over $1 million in energy costs.

Coupled with setbacks controlled by the Energy Management team, Cornell students and employees helped to achieve 583,240 kWh in electric savings ($44,000) and 3,160 klbs in steam savings ($73,000) this year.

These savings are calculated by Facilities & Campus Services staff, who monitor energy savings resulting from winter setback efforts. The resulting data is compared with projected energy use based on average utility loads on campus before and after break, as well as energy use during campus breaks with limited setback efforts (e.g. Thanksgiving Break).

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