Carbon credit deal struck between Chevrolet, PSU

On Campus Sustainability Day, Oct. 22, Portland State announced a deal with car company Chevrolet to sell two and a half years of renewable energy credits. The university will use measurements of its carbon emissions recorded between July 2012 and December 2014.

PSU is projected to reduce its carbon emissions by about 1,400 metric tons. The credit will provide funding for energy efficiency projects across campus.

Chevrolet chose Bonneville Environmental Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Portland, to manage their transactions with PSU.

“Chevrolet really wanted to be able to support energy efficiency with an eye toward college campuses. Those are great places to deal with multiple buildings and there’s a great audience there for efficiency,” said Pat Nye, a senior consultant of carbon and renewable energy at BEF.

Carbon credits represent the carbon saved by implanting sustainability solutions. The financial backing from Chevrolet provides PSU with the means to provide sustainable solutions, while the carbon saved goes toward Chevrolet’s accounts.

“BEF has been a long-time buyer and seller of renewable energy credits and carbon offsets and other environmental commodities, so we have a lot of experience with this,” Nye said.

Nye explained this sale is not related to any of Chevrolet’s operations.

“It’s really a support on behalf of the environment and really a way to show their commitment to the environment and climate change,” Nye said.

PSU Utility Manager Noel Mingo said BEF approached PSU about being part of the program.

“Chevy was trying to offset their greenhouse gas emissions for their vehicle line, and so a lot of what they did was try to buy green credits,” Mingo said.

“Companies will purchase carbon offsets more than likely to mitigate unavoidable greenhouse gas emissions,” said Kayla Walker, a business development representative from BEF.

Christina Williams, PSU Institute of Sustainable Solutions’ communications director, said that participating in a program of this nature is in line with the university’s preexisting work toward expansion of sustainable practices.

“We do groundbreaking stuff all the time, so to participate in this first-of-its-kind program was just a natural fit,” Williams said. “In addition to that, we were already doing these energy efficient upgrades, so it was already in progress. So basically, the money we’re going to get from Chevrolet will allow us to do even more work.”

PSU programs and those within the greater Portland community place emphasis on environmentally friendly and sustainable practices and innovations.

“We do a lot of work with sustainability, not just the energy side, but all three aspects of sustainability. I think we’ve got a fairly good national reputation at [PSU], and Portland in general, and Oregon in general,” Mingo said.

The three aspects of sustainability are subject to differing opinions, but generally include environmental, economic and social factors.

Funding from the sale will allow PSU to target project expenditures like those applied to the West Heating Plant Boiler Room Replacement. The project replaced boilers running through 14 buildings around the Park Blocks with more energy efficient alternatives.

“We’re doing a lot of energy efficiency projects and this sort of fell in line,” Mingo said.

“Any financial support we can provide these initiatives and protections, the better,” Walker said. “That’s kind of the key benefit. If someone’s willing to support energy efficiency projects on a college campus through the purchase of carbon offsets, that’s a really great benefit to both the campus and the company.”

This transaction may play a part in PSU’s long-term sustainability goals.

“As a university, we have a goal to be climate neutral, net zero by 2040,” Mingo said.

Because PSU is selling their carbon credit to Chevrolet, they cannot claim the next two years of greenhouse emissions themselves.

“But it’s a good program, hopefully, in terms that it will get established in other companies that have reductions they need to make, who will be willing to partner with universities,” Mingo said.

“For the Portland area and [PSU], it’s kind of bolstering our reputation of groundbreaking things to address climate change, and what new kinds of creative finance models can we set up to finance the work that needs to be done,” Williams said. “This is something that is really groundbreaking because buying these types of credits that are associated with energy efficiency is sort of a new thing.”