New Study: PA colleges and universities get high marks for renewable energy

Swarthmore, Chatham, and Carnegie Mellon get top marks, with Bryn Mawr, Lebanon Valley College, Allegheny College, Susquehanna University, and Northampton Community College also receiving high marks
For Immediate Release

[Pittsburgh, PA] -- The PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center released a new report today comparing Pennsylvania’s colleges and universities to similar institutions across the nation in key energy sustainability metrics. 

“America’s Top Colleges for Renewable Energy 2020: Who’s Leading the Transition to 100% Renewable Energy on Campus?” ranks campuses in three categories: shifting to renewable electricity, repowering buildings with clean energy, and adopting electric vehicles. 

The report showed that six Pennsylvania colleges and universities ranked in the top tier nationwide for obtaining at least 100 percent of their electricity from renewable sources. 

Swarthmore College and Chatham University led the way, with Swarthmore ranking seventh for percentage of electricity from renewable sources, and Chatham ranking second in the nation for amount of non-electric renewable energy produced on campus per student. 

Other Pennsylvania colleges and universities recognized for their leadership in the report include Carnegie Mellon University, which ranked 3rd nationwide among large schools; Susquehanna University which has transitioned 50% of its fleet to clean vehicles, and Allegheny College, Bryn Mawr College, Lebanon Valley College, and Northampton Community College for supplying 100% of their campuses electricity with renewable energy.

 

“College campuses are natural leaders when it comes to transitioning to 100 percent clean, renewable energy,” said Ashleigh Deemer , Deputy Director at PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center. “We’re excited to celebrate the fact that so many colleges and universities in Pennsylvania are leading the way in doing just that.”

Findings of the report include:

  • Swarthmore College sources 110% of their electricity needs from renewables, ranking 7th nationally in the report.

  • Chatham University ranks 2nd in the country for renewable heating, cooling, hot water, and other non-electric energy produced per student.

  • Carnegie Mellon University ranks 3rd in the nation among large colleges and universities (with student populations over 10,000) for sourcing 105% of their electricity needs from renewable sources.

“The climate crisis is among the most challenging and complex issues we’ve faced as a society. Confronting it is about more than saving our natural environment; it’s also a question of equity and social justice, for we know the crisis disproportionately affects poor, black, and brown communities,” said Swarthmore College President Valerie Smith. “As institutions of higher learning who seek to educate individuals to serve the common good, we have a responsibility to model our behavior and adapt our own processes as we work together to solve this crisis.”

“Chatham is pleased to have one of the most diverse uses of renewable energy at any university with geothermal, solar PV, solar hot-water heating, wind turbines and a microgrid all demonstrating key elements of the sustainable living-learning communities of the future,” said Chatham University President, Dr. David Finegold.

Other Pennsylvania colleges and universities were also highlighted in the report for sourcing at least 100% of their energy needs from renewable sources include:

  • Bryn Mawr College (100%)

  • Lebanon Valley College (100%)

  • Northampton Community College (100%)

  • Allegheny College (100%)

As one of the largest community college consumers of green power in the nation, and with our Monroe Campus LEED Gold and net-zero energy building certified, Northampton Community College strives to demonstrate what it means to be sustainable to our community as well as teaching our students to be great stewards of our planet,” says Dr. Mark Erickson, president of NCC.

“Incorporating sustainability as a priority in the College’s strategic plan and using data has a) enabled Lebanon Valley College to offset 100% of our electric consumption via Renewable Energy Credits dedicated to wind power, and b) achieve the lowest rate of energy use per square foot as compared to our comparison schools ” said Dr. James MacLaren, president of LVC. “This success was also achieved through the great work of our Environmental Sustainability Advisory Committee and dedicated student-interns like Paige Bryson ’20, who created the LVC Green Living Guide. The guide has become part of our fabric, embraced by students, faculty, and staff.”

Among large colleges and universities (with student populations over 10,000), Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University ranked third highest in the nation for electricity from renewable sources. 

Chatham University reports that its purchases of renewable energy in 2019 exceeded 100 percent of its electricity consumption. The updated data, not available when this report went to press, would make Chatham one of 43 schools to receive 100 percent or more of their electricity from renewables.

Beyond the rankings, the report also highlights schools that have begun to transition their campus-owned vehicles to electric or hydrogen fueled vehicles. Of the schools that reported this data to the EPA between 2017 and 2019, 82% own at least one electric vehicle. Here in PA, the report finds that 50% of Susquehanna University’s fleet are clean, and Chatham University’s fleet is at 25.5%. 

Recording of the press conference can be viewed here.


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The PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center is a statewide non-profit environmental group dedicated to protecting our water, air and open spaces. We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public and decision-makers, and help the public make their voices heard in local, state and national debates over the quality of our environment and our lives. To learn more about this or other priorities for the PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center, visit our website at www.PennEnvironmentcenter.org.