Clean Energy, USA


A class from Southern Oregon University on a sustainability and energy tour, which includes the LEED Certified Residence Halls that are part of the carbon credit project

Project name
Campus Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency Projects
Project location
USA – Muncie, Indiana; Urbana- Champaign, Illinois; Ashland, Oregon; Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Funder and supplier
Second Nature
Verified Carbon Standard
Project status

All project information is sourced from the supplier – correct as of July 2018

About the project

The Campus Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency Projects (CCEEP) support colleges and universities across the USA in developing and marketing carbon offsets as a way to accelerate their progress towards campus carbon neutrality. Proceeds from carbon credit sales are invested into sustainability projects on campus, allowing institutions to achieve greater emissions reductions and pushing communities to develop clean, efficient energy systems. To be eligible to sell their carbon reductions, all campuses must deliver greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction performance, either campus wide through energy based emissions, or for individual LEED®-certified1 buildings which ranked in the top 15% of their peers nationally. Credits are certified through the Verified Carbon Standard under the VCS Campus Clean Energy Efficiency methodology. This campaign is open to all US universities and colleges.

Southern Oregon University (SOU) was the first university in Oregon – and one of the first in the nation – to offset 100 percent of its energy use with clean, renewable power, and it is the first university in the nation to balance 100% of its water consumption.

Who is behind the project

Between 2014 and 2015, 11 US college and university campuses participated in the Campus Clean Energy Campaign which provided funding to purchase and retire verified carbon reductions resulting from renewable energy and energy efficiency projects implemented at the participating campuses. Due to the success of the initial campaign, many participating campuses desired to continue verifying and marketing emissions reductions, which led to the development of a second program – the Carbon Credit and Purchasing Program (C2P2), carried forward by Second Nature, a Boston-based nonprofit working to proactively build a sustainable and positive global future through leadership networks in higher education – in collaboration with the Climate Neutral Business Network. BP Target Neutral has entered into an agreement to purchase carbon credits from the second program.


Ground source heat storage pump room at Ball State University – part of the US Campus Clean Energy Project

How does the project contribute to carbon reduction?

Four universities are being supported by BPTN this year: Ball State University, Indiana, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Campus, Southern Oregon University and University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. Together, the four campuses currently participating will reduce approximately 100,000 tCO2e emissions per year. This is achieved by each campus employing a number of different energy efficiency measures and technologies:

In 2006, Ball State University (BSU) became a founding signatory to the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC, now known as the Carbon Commitment), with the aim of achieving carbon-neutrality by 2050. With 21,000 students and more than 100 campus buildings providing educational, residential and facility services, the university decided to create the nation’s largest ground-source, closed-loop district geothermal energy system. The project replaced the university’s coal-fired boilers and chilled water equipment and achieved a seven-fold increase in efficiency. BSU has eliminated annual emissions of 85,000 tons of carbon dioxide, 240 tons of nitrogen oxide, 200 tons of particulate matter, 80 tons of carbon monoxide, and 1,400 tons of sulfur dioxide. The net change has cut the university’s overall carbon footprint nearly in half. BSU has sold its initial verified carbon emission reductions and BP Target Neutral has agreed to purchase further voluntary credits from the university. The installation of the geothermal project has set the primary frame of reference for BSU’s ongoing Climate Action Plan which targets reductions in carbon from three strategic categories: information transparency, energy conservation, and electrical energy sourcing.

The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UI) has been cited for its commitment to “green” building procedures, extensive on-campus educational programs supporting sustainable practices, and a transportation program that features hybrid and flex-fuel vehicles.

The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UI) campus comprises more than 600 buildings providing facilities for in excess of 40,000 students and staff. In 2008, it signed the ACUPCC (currently known as the Carbon Commitment), committing to become carbon neutral by 2050. In 2010, UI set specific targets for campus sustainability, and by 2015 it had reduced existing building energy consumption by 20%; existing building greenhouse gas emissions by 15%; and obtained 5% of electrical energy from renewable sources. As a result, the university has achieved Gold Level honors in the Sustainability, Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System (STARS) and was ranked first in the Big Ten Conference by the Sierra Club “Cool Schools” program. UI has retrospectively sold its verified carbon emission reductions for 2011-2014 which is enabling further emission reductions on campus. BP Target Neutral has committed to the purchase of carbon credits generated by the university since mid-2014. Going forward, the university has set new 5-year targets from 2015 which include renewable energy goals of 120,000 MWh/year from low-carbon energy sources and 12,500 MWh/year of on-campus solar energy production. The university has been cited for its commitment to “green” building procedures, extensive on-campus educational programs supporting sustainable practices, and a transportation program that features hybrid and flex-fuel vehicles.

Southern Oregon University (SOU) was amongst the first signatories of the ACUPCC (now the Carbon Commitment) in 2007 committing to be carbon neutral by 2050. SOU was the first university in Oregon – and one of the first in the nation – to offset 100 percent of its energy use with clean, renewable power, and it is the first university in the nation to balance 100% of its water consumption. SOU adopted a Climate Action Plan in 2010 which outlined the university’s goal to reduce its carbon footprint by 10 percent by 2020 and by 100 percent by 2050. The university is producing its own renewable energy through a 56-kW solar photovoltaic array that produces more than 70,000 kWh per year. This array helped the University qualify for a LEED Platinum certification for its Higher Education Center in Medford. Its LEED Gold-Certified Raider Village is the newest development in sustainable campus living and features daylit common spaces, variable refrigerant flow technology, and 153 kilowatts of solar photovoltaics. SOU students have created a self-imposed fee to support SOU’s continued commitment to power the campus with clean, renewable energy. BP Target Neutral has committed to the purchase of carbon credits generated by the university.

University of Wisconsin Milwaukee (UWM) became a signatory to the Climate Commitment in 2016, after years of campus-wide focus on energy efficiency and comprehensively reducing GHG emissions. In order to qualify for carbon credit generation under the VCS methodology, UWM reduced its Scope 1 emissions by a yearly average of 11.79% relative to the baseline period. These reductions were driven by an aggressive campus-wide program called Energy Matters-Comprehensive Energy Efficiency and Awareness. The program focused on improving campus space and service, piloting innovative technology, and reducing energy consumption. Energy conservation measures included lighting retrofits, occupancy-based heating, and cooling load improvements. UWM also incorporated behavior change initiatives among students and staff, developed an on-site solar PV system, and built three LEED-certified buildings between 2011-2016. UWM is currently undertaking a Climate Action Carbon and Resiliency planning process to develop a campus-wide plan to achieve carbon neutrality and increase resilience with Milwaukee area partners.

Key benefits

  • Proceeds from the sale of carbon credits are invested in sustainability projects on campuses that help schools further improve their performance. Significant and lasting emissions reductions are often costly; the carbon market provides a source of financing for these projects;
  • Beyond the direct benefit of reducing carbon emissions, these projects set in motion positive environmental benefits that will expand throughout academic institutions as well as local and state communities for years to come;
  • USA-cleanenergy-image3

    Left: Ball State University is one of eleven US campuses in the US Campus Clean Energy project that is using carbon financing to help the participating universities go carbon neutral by 2050. The financing is used to fund carbon reduction initiatives. Centre: LEED®-certified buildings at South Oregon University. These energy efficient buildings are built using LEED® principles (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and suported through the US Campus Clean Energy Project. Right: Inside the Ball State District Energy Station a technician checks the performance of the heat exchange system

  • The carbon credit methodology creates a new source of finance and incentive to support clean energy and efficiency innovation at other college and university campuses throughout the US;
  • Critical learning is being shared and research stimulated through initiatives like Ball State’s Geothermal-Systems Conclaves which target professionals, educators, and students. These offer tours, hands-on workshops, in-service training, and product/equipment exhibits;
  • The student body is being engaged with over 70 academic courses related to sustainability now being offered at Illinois; Ball State’s Residence Hall Energy Challenge led to the winning residence cutting energy consumption by nearly 50,000 Kwh in just 4 weeks. Southern students voted to tax themselves to pay for renewable energy credits (RECs) that offset the natural gas and electricity consumed on campus. They subsequently transferred their renewable energy credits from gas and electricity to water, making SOU the first campus in America to offset 100% of its water usage;

For further information:

  1. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is one of the most popular green building certification programs used worldwide