Cowles Contributes to Carbon Charge Pilot with Positive Results

08/15/2016
The Cowles Foundation, located at 30 Hillhouse Avenue, was given high marks for its carbon output (or lack thereof) as a participant of the Yale Carbon Charge Project. 
 
The project, initiated by President Peter Salovey in 2014 as a result of a proposal from Yale undergraduate and graduate students interested in using Yale campus as a “living laboratory for applied research,” created a 12-member Presidential Carbon Charge Task Force chaired by Professor Bill Nordhaus, Sterling Professor of Economics.  In its recommendations, the task force suggested that Yale pilot an internal carbon charge program during the 2015-16 academic year. 
 
The six-month pilot monitored the carbon footprint of 20 buildings from around Yale campus (including 30 Hillhouse) based on a three-year average of annual emissions served by Yale’s three Power plants, as well as remote facilities located in Connecticut.
 
At the conclusion of the pilot program in June, Cowles’ building performance rating improved from the previous years, and was 4th overall in terms of percentage reduction.  According to Ryan Laemel, Project Manager for the Yale Carbon Project, “[30 Hillhouse] reduced its carbon emissions 16% relative to the baseline (an average of carbon emissions from the previous 3 fiscal years).”  Laemel also noted, “Hillhouse beat its group’s carbon pricing scheme, a 1% reduction target, by 15 percentage points, earning it a reward of $40 per ton of carbon dioxide equivalent on a little over 7 tons, or $290.47.”30 Hillhouse Ave.
 
Sue Maher, Operations Manager for the Cowles Foundation, was responsible for heading the pilot at 30 Hillhouse. While Maher was happy with the results considering the age of the building, she questioned if the warmer winter influenced the ratings results. Nonetheless, the pilot made Maher more cognizant of her surroundings. “Having been involved in the pilot has made me more aware of the external factors that influence the facility I’m responsible for,” said Maher. With many older buildings around campus, including 30 Hillhouse, Maher believes Yale’s carbon charge can help identify areas where there are energy deficiencies that can be addressed with relatively minor improvements, for example updating single-paned windows. “The university will also need to look at some major capital projects to address many of the larger facility issues surrounding carbon emissions around campus,” she added.
 
While the pilot was a good way to monitor Yale’s performance, Task Committee Chair Bill Nordhaus points out that, “the idea of using a carbon charge instead of quantitative targets is fundamental and, if implemented, would vastly improve the way institutions (or countries) manage their carbon footprint.” 
 
According to the task force, the program’s objectives are triplicate: to evaluate multiple models of carbon pricing; reduce campus energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions by using financial incentives; support Yale’s role as a leader in research and institutional design by sharing the project’s findings.  In its Carbon Charge Report, the committee also made recommendations falling into five categories:  (1) students, faculty, and/or staff behavior; (2) university and/or departmental policies;  (3) building use, operations, and/or construction; (4) future campus planning; and (5) the purchase and use of major equipment.
 
A final report has yet to surface, but the carbon charge program will continue to test and develop a campus concept, and will have on-going support from campus organizations.  One such group is the Sustainability Service Corps (SSC) which is comprised of Yale undergraduates working for the Office of Sustainability. With support from Yale Energy Management, SSC provides guidance on how to lower a department’s carbon footprint by conducting surveys of campus buildings.  
 
For more information on the program overview, the task committee, or recommendations, visit the Yale Carbon Charge Project website.