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Dec. 7, 2012
CONTACT: K. E. Schwab

SRU reduces carbon footprint

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Slippery Rock University has signed a plan that guarantees 25 percent of the electricity used on campus this year is generated by wind power.

"This year, we invested in a Renewable Energy Certificate that is linked to wind energy," said Paul Scanlon, special assistant to the president for sustainability planning and operations. "The REC cost us a premium of less than a tenth of a penny per Kwh or 1.7 percent of our normal cost, due to the surge in wind energy installations in the past few years and the relatively low demand for electricity in a slow economy," he said.

"In addition to supporting the fledgling renewable energy industry, this program will reduce SRU's indirect carbon emissions by almost 6,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide during the year." Scanlon said.

He said he sees the program as another way SRU can support emerging renewable energy industries while simultaneously doing its part to support the University's greening efforts.

Scanlon, who joined the University in 2008, is charged with overseeing development and implementation of sustainable practices needed to execute Trend 5 of the SRU Strategic Plan "Reaching for 2025 and Beyond" and to meet the expectations of the President's Campus Climate Commitment.

He pointed to climate scientists all over the world who are worried that the "weird weather" being increasingly experienced during the past few years, causing food shortages, species habitat loss, drought, increased frequency and intensity of wildfires, storms and hurricanes, unpredictable weather patterns and rises in sea level, may only portend things to come.

Scanlon said previous predictions of climate change, primarily caused by the burning of fossil fuels, are proving to be too conservative. "Reports of changes like the extent of arctic sea ice melting are happening far faster than scientists predicted even a few years ago," he said.

"The consensus in the scientific community is that we are running out of time in addressing climate change - if we don't dramatically cut our global CO2 emissions soon, the continued rise in the earth's average global surface temperature will cause even more disruptive, and perhaps irreversible, climate change leading to catastrophic human and economic losses," Scanlon said.

"Despite claims that the U.S. has hundreds of years' worth of fossil fuel reserves and that the Marcellus Shale play means natural gas prices will remain low for years, everyone in the energy industry - including some of the most notorious 'climate change deniers' - will still admit that the world must, eventually, transition to a low-carbon energy future powered by renewable energy," he said.

"There are hundreds, even thousands of ways we can reduce our carbon footprint; but without question the quickest, most cost-effective and environmentally benign way is to conserve energy - especially electricity. Why? Because in the U.S., most of our electricity is supplied by coal-fired power plants that operate at efficiencies on the order of only 30 percent and emit enormous amounts of greenhouse gases. SRU has improved its building energy efficiency by 45 percent during the last 10 years, and we plan to continue conserving energy to reduce both our operating costs and our carbon emissions," Scanlon said. "Another very important benefit of energy conservation, of course, is that it reduces the size, and therefore the cost, of future renewable energy sources and infrastructure."

The REC plan was endorsed by the President's Commission on Sustainability, which serves as the umbrella organization for all sustainability initiatives on campus and works to promote and facilitate the cooperative efforts of faculty, staff, students and staff to educate, develop values, share knowledge, and create a culture of sustainability across campus.

The commission also identifies and advises the president on establishing and integrating sustainability strategies and policies for the University.

Among the projects it has undertaken is a "Small steps. Big payoff" program has asked those on campus to take the "SRU Energy Action Pledge" available at: The pledge asks participants to select three energy conservations action steps they will employ in their personal lives from a list of nine suggestions, including such ideas as taking shorter showers, printing less/double siding, using stairs instead of elevators and turning out lights whenever possible.

Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.