Virginia Tech invests more than $3M to continue energy efficiency efforts

Published: Feb. 25, 2020 at 10:28 PM EST
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Virginia Tech is continuing its commitment to reduce its environmental impact. Tuesday, the school announced over $3 million will be spent to improve energy efficiency while reducing energy costs.

It’s part of the school’s Five-Year Energy Action Plan to improve efficiency and reduce costs within that time across 50 of the most energy-hogging buildings on campus.

Tuesday’s announcement is part of the final phase of the project that started in 2015. Virginia Tech said it has reduced carbon emissions by about 23,000 tons per year, and in doing so, it has saved more than $2.3 million in annual energy costs.

“When you make that investment, you end up getting your money back because of the money you save in energy costs,” said university spokesman Mark Owczarski. “For many reasons it’s a great idea to invest in ways to save energy because it saves money for Virginia Tech and taxpayers, and it also has a very positive effect on our environment.”

Owczarski said things like adding LED lighting, power plant optimization and meter replacement and maintenance are just some of the school’s latest commitments to climate action.

A community climate action group has protested the university’s work in the past, especially as part of the Global Climate Strike. They said the school could be doing more now.

“I’m really in favor of it, I like that they’re doing this, but it’s not quite as radical as the university is making it out to be,” said Jack Leff of the climate action group.

Leff said because the university gets its money back from this current plan, it could be spending more on the maintenance and facilities workers' ideas. Leff said those workers have great ideas; they just need the money to implement them.

“They have the money, we’ve done the research and we know they have the money, it’s just about convincing them to implement it and doing the right thing,” he said. “A lot of times with these big institutions you have to push them to do the right thing, because there’s so much money tied up in doing the wrong thing and I think that’s what the activist side of things is trying to get them to do.”

Leff said the group is developing a report to give an actionable plan for the university to follow from an institutional perspective that’s financially and ethically what they believe is the correct thing to do. He said this current investment is comparable to what other universities do and that most of the greenhouse gas emission reductions have simply been them switching from one fossil fuel to another.

“The students are very engaged with this process and it’s important to engage with this process and our faculty in all of this,” Owczarski said. “What we hope will come out of all of it is a climate action revision that our community as a whole will embrace.”

Owczarski said this five-year plan coincides with their goals of working with the climate action group and that we can expect even more to come with the university’s commitment to helping the environment.

You can read more about the plan here:”>