The University of Illinois and the Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment rely on funding to carry out steps toward carbon neutrality. The University has a generous student population that helps fund projects — mainly through the Student Sustainability Committee, a registered student organization — and the campus Revolving Loan Fund. iSEE has also found corporate partnerships to do the same.
Levenick iSEE Fellows Program
In February 2015, the Institute announced it would expand its base of research and scholarship thanks to a generous endowment from Stuart L. and Nancy J. Levenick of Peoria.
Mr. Levenick, who retired as Group President of Customer & Dealer Support at Caterpillar Inc., gave $500,000 to the University of Illinois Foundation in late 2014 for the creation of the Levenick iSEE Fellows Program Fund, which will support the Institute through resident Scholars, Research Fellows, and Teaching Fellows. Many of the Fellows’ projects will help study and address campus sustainability issues.
Student Sustainability Committee (SSC)
It is iSEE’s privilege to support the Student Sustainability Committee. The Committee’s purpose is to:
1) explore the options for the use of the student fees for sustainability and alternative energy generation
2) evaluate the feasibility of projects being discussed with the professional assistance of engineers in the Division of Facilities and Services. The committee reviews and recommends projects to be funded from two student fees, the $12 Sustainable Campus Environment fee and the $2 Cleaner Energy Technologies fee.
In Spring 2003, a $2-per-semester nonrefundable student fee for Cleaner Energy Technologies was approved by a student referendum. The intent of the fee is to “provide pollution-free renewable energy as a portion of the campus energy portfolio and reduce campus energy consumption.”
In Spring 2010, students passed a referendum that raised the Sustainable Campus Environment Fee from $5 to $14. The measure passed by 77% approval, and established University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as having the largest funding pool of its kind in the United States. This fee was reaffirmed by the student population in Spring 2014.
The Committee comprises student, faculty and staff committee members, though students are the only voting members on the Committee. The projects earmarked by SSC undergo approval by iSEE.
Revolving Loan Fund
The Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) was set up as a funding source for utility conservation projects with less than 10-year payback periods. As of 2015, the fund had grown to about $3.9 million (see this Feb. 29, 2016, news release on a request for project proposals totaling $1.9 million or the Chevrolet section below) to be used on campus sustainability projects. These can include steam, electricity, chilled water, or water reduction projects, and the savings from utility costs are paid back annually to replenish the fund. Project suggestions will be solicited from facility managers when the RLF has more than $1 million to allocate.
This fund was originally called for in the 2010 iCAP, as the “clean energy fund.” It was established in Fiscal Year 2012, with funding from the Student Sustainability Committee (SSC) and the Office of the Chancellor. Within the first year, the Office of the President committed additional funds.
With input from the campus community, Facilities & Services (F&S), SSC, the then-Office of Sustainability, and the Office of the Chancellor worked through the details for selecting projects. The agreement about the process was signed in November 2011. According to the agreement, any grant funds received for RLF projects in campus-funded utility buildings will be allocated entirely to the RLF. Thus, the fund can grow over time. Additionally, the campus agreed to match any future commitments from SSC.
If an auxiliary unit is interested in using the Revolving Loan Fund for a utility conservation project, a simple Memo of Understanding is needed to allow the repayment through utility savings over time.
Carbon Credits Sales
In 2018, iSEE brokered the sale of the Illinois campus’ Verified Carbon Units (VCUs) from 2017 as part of the Carbon Credit and Purchasing Program (C2P2) through Boston-based nonprofit Second Nature. Proceeds from the sale exceeded $243,000. Read the full news release >>>
That amount, along with proceeds and matching funds from previous carbon sales, are being held at the campus level (the fund totaled more than $900,000 as of Fall 2018). Funds from that account have been used, and are reserved for future use, toward campus sustainability and GHG reduction projects as determined by iSEE and Facilities & Services (F&S) — including the purchase and retirement of carbon offset credits.
VCUs are a measure of carbon dioxide or equivalent greenhouse gases (GHG) kept out of the atmosphere. By selling its accumulated carbon credits, Illinois’ good work (mainly through efforts by F&S) to reduce GHG emissions will fund additional emission reductions and energy conservation projects on campus.
In Spring 2017, iSEE brokered a C2P2 sale of VCUs from 2016, netting more than $123,000 in proceeds.
In Fall 2016, iSEE brokered the sale of the Illinois campus’ VCUs to BP Target Neutral (BPTN) as part of C2P2. Proceeds from the sale were more than $700,000. Read the full news release >>>
In Summer 2015, the campus announced it received $832,885 from Chevrolet through the Bonneville Environmental Fund for a sale of campus VCUs. Chevy retired the carbon credits on behalf of the environment.
iSEE and Facilities & Services agreed to add $750,000 of that total to the RLF (see above), which was set up as a funding source for utility conservation projects with less than 10-year payback periods. As of 2015, the fund had grown to $3,190,213; adding the Chevrolet money took the RLF past $3.9 million.
The remainder, along with matching funds from the Provost, started the campus-level fund for sustainability and GHG-reducing projects.
To hear a WDWS Radio interview with iSEE’s Ben McCall, former Associate Director for Campus Sustainability, on the first carbon credits sale, play the podcast below.