Whenever possible, it is best to use renewables that directly power campus buildings. However, here at CU we have limited space to install wind mills and solar panels, so carbon offsets and renewable energy credits are used to reduce the campus carbon footprint. Carbon offsets represent a reduction in emissions at another location that help offset the emissions created on campus. Funds from carbon offsets go towards carbon emission reduction projects that would not have been possible without the purchase of offsets, such as solar hot water heaters in affordable housing seen in the picture below.
Renewable energy credits (RECs) refer to the purchase of renewable energy produced off site that is put into the electrical grid. This renewable energy doesn't directly provide electricity to the desired building, but instead goes to cleaning the overall grid. The purchaser of RECs retains the environmental attributes of that energy. Find out more about carbon offsets and RECs here.
Since 2012, with the support of student government, the Environmental Center purchased100% offsets for the CUSG-run buildings, starting with a total of 8,000 metric tons of CO2 those first years. In 2012 the purchase went towards landfill methane capture project in Oklahoma. This methane now fuels a local, family-owned brick-making factory. The purchase was made through Native Energy.
The most recent purchases have been made Native Energy and go to a coal bed methane capture project in Southern Ute tribal land in La Plata County.
Solar hot water heaters at Maple Terrace Apartments - 2011 offset purchase through Colorado Carbon Fund