Luther College sets goals for achieving carbon neutrality by 2030

June 13, 2012

Luther College Regents have endorsed a timetable for the college to achieve a carbon neutral campus and have authorized President Richard Torgerson to plan and pursue sustainable methods of operation and energy conservation initiatives that will take the college to its zero carbon footprint goal.

The Regents' resolution, approved at the board's May meeting, instructs the college to reduce its campus carbon footprint by 50 percent by the end of 2015, 70 percent by 2020, and achieve its carbon neutral goal by the year 2030.

Carbon neutrality has been a strategic goal of the college since June 2007 when President Richard Torgerson made Luther one of the 70 charter signatories of the American College and University President's Climate Commitment.

Luther is recognized regionally and nationally as a leader in sustainability practices, including selection for the 2012 Second Nature Climate Leadership Award for baccalaureate colleges. On the basis of its sustainability achievements, Luther is one of only eight campuses nationwide to earn an "A" grade on the College Sustainability Report Card.

"We have made great progress in each of our ACUPCC commitments and we will continue to study bold ideas as we go forward," President Torgerson told the Regents. "The 2004 investment in campus energy efficiency reduced the campus carbon footprint 15 percent, the wind turbine will bring an additional 15 percent reduction, and a combination of other energy efficiency initiatives and campus conservation efforts will bring our total carbon reduction efforts to 40 percent."

More than 700 colleges and universities across the country have signed the ACUPCC commitment to achieve carbon neutral campus operations. Luther is among the vanguard of institutions leading the carbon neutral movement.

Carbon neutrality, or having a net zero carbon footprint, refers to achieving net zero carbon emissions. Produced by the burning of fossil fuels, carbon emissions are the primary

"greenhouse gas" contributing to global climate change and its increasingly unpredictable weather patterns.

Luther had 17,788 metric tons of gross emissions in fiscal year 2011. Roughly 83 percent of those emissions, 14,635 metric tons, were from purchases of coal-intensive electricity to power the campus, the combustion of natural gas to heat the campus, and the use of gasoline and diesel to run campus vehicles.

Luther has undertaken an additional energy conservation initiative this summer, engaging the Michaels Engineering firm to conduct a 17-building campus retro-commissioning study. That study is expected to reveal energy efficiency practices that will enable Luther to achieve a total carbon footprint reduction of more than 50 percent by 2015.

"To work toward carbon neutrality, the college will evaluate additional major initiatives, including investments in LED lighting technology, centralized or decentralized cogeneration of electricity and heat, as well as more use of solar thermal and solar electric technologies," President Torgerson said. "Advances in new technologies, coupled with conservation initiatives, will play a major role in achieving these ambitious goals."

Luther College wind turbine