UCSB Receives EPA ‘Excellence in Green Power Use Award’

The UCSB Library has been awarded for its environmentally-friendly design. (Benjamin Hurst/The Bottom Line file photo)

The Bottom Line Staff Report

The Environmental Protection Agency awarded the University of California for its commitment to green energy with the Excellence in Green Power Use award on Oct. 23. The UC is one of only eight organizations nationwide to receive this annual award.

The Green Power Use Award recognizes organizations that “distinguish themselves by using green power in amounts that exceed the minimum benchmark requirements” set forth by the EPA, or demonstrate “distinct market impact through innovation, communications, and stakeholder engagement.”  

The EPA noted the UC’s commitment towards becoming carbon neutral by 2025 and the steps it has taken to reach its goals as stated in the Carbon Neutrality Initiative.

One notable action the EPA highlights is the UC making “the largest solar purchase ever made by a university in the United States” when the UC entered “into long-term power purchase agreements (PPAs) for two new California grid-connected solar energy projects.”

The EPA also recognizes the fact that UC uses “more than 127 million kilowatt-hours of green power,” and has on-site renewable generation at each of its campuses.

The EPA is not the only organization that has recognized the UC for being environmentally friendly; recently, the U.S. Green Building Council’s Northern California Chapter gave the UC the Green Building Super Hero Award.

With more Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified buildings than any other university system in the nation, the University of California has more than 140 LEED certified buildings on its campuses. This can likely be attributed to the UC’s Policy for Sustainable Practices, which dictates that any new construction or renovation has to meet LEED certification standards.

Over the past several years, UC Santa Barbara has demonstrated its commitment to green energy. In 2009, the UC Newsroom reported that Bren Hall was the nation’s first building to earn two LEED Platinum certifications, recognizing the building’s environmentally-friendly design.  

Bren Hall is not the only building on campus to be LEED certified. The new and renovated UCSB Library buildings have been awarded LEED Gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council.

In 2017, UCSB won a Best Practice Award in the annual Energy Efficiency and Sustainability Awards contest for the Student Affairs and Administrative Services Building (SAAB) Advanced Lighting and Controls Project.

The project involved installing over 700 LED retrofit kits and an advanced wireless control system into the SAAB, reducing energy costs by over 60 percent. The project, one of the most comprehensive lighting installation on campus to date, led to an increase in satisfaction with lighting among occupants.

Instrumental in the success of the project was UCSB Sustainability, a collection of efforts from staff, students, administrators, and faculty across campus working to make UCSB more environmentally sustainable. Some of their projects include building four megawatts of onsite solar energy generation on campus.

Raffi Zeytounian, a second year political science major, believes that it’s good news that the UC has been recognized for being environmentally friendly. However, he also believes more can be done by the UC and UCSB to help the environment.

“It’s good we’re doing a transition to green energy, but we can always do more,” Zeytounian said. “For one thing, UC and UCSB can divest from fossil fuel companies and invest more in Green Energy.”

He also noted the importance of Green energy here on the West Coast. “With climate change, rising sea levels, and our campus being on the coast, it’s important for us to be committed to be green energy,” Zeytounian said. “Otherwise we won’t have a school anymore.”

Arturo Samaniego contributed reporting.