20-20 Foresight – Energy at PSU – Updates

Evan McTague, PSU SSAC Co-Chair, wrote to the l-sustainability listserve on Feb. 24:

Attention Sustainability Minded Students: The Student Sustainability Advisory Council (SSAC) is now accepting applications for the 2014-2015 school year!

The SSAC is a dedicated group of undergraduate and graduate students who, along with select faculty and staff, advise the Penn State administration on issues related to sustainability planning, programs, and initiatives. Members of this council have a unique line of communication to the leaders of Penn State which allows students to cultivate real change at their university. Past focus areas have included energy usage and conservation projects, food and dining hall development, transportation, waste, and community relations.

The SSAC meets biweekly, with opportunities to engage with specific topics outside of regularly scheduled meeting times. Please note that the SSAC is not a student organization and does not engage with or put on “projects”. Rather, students on this council investigate areas of interest and come together to provide recommendations to decision makers about how to make Penn State more sustainable.

Positions of membership are open to both undergraduate and graduate students. The selected students will be officially appointed to the SSAC by the Penn State President. The application is available online and is due by 5:00pm on March 7th. Please email completed applications, with resume attached, to Lea Ann Bloom.

Following Evan’s email, I checked in with VP for Physical Plant Steve Maruszewski, to clarify the parameters of the SSAC’s work. It was my understanding that – in addition to its advisory and communicative role – the SSAC can plan and implement actual energy-related projects, and that funding through OPP is available for such projects; Steve had mentioned that OPP had funding and other resources to offer SSAC students when I met with him last September. 

Steve clarified, by email:

“Their role is to press the administration on issues that the students feel are important. They also have the ability to stimulate projects especially those that require policy change. We have and will support their recommendations and I actually am a member of their advisory council so I bring resources to the table whenever requested. I will reinforce our ability to support them as you suggest.”

I wrote to the l-sustainability list today:

From my standpoint as a community member (& PSU grad, class of ’96), here’s a list of four policy changes that I’d love to see Penn State students pursue. If anyone is interested in community support for campaigns around these issues, or more information, please contact me off-list.

  1. Change Penn State’s risk management policies to allow seasonal consumption, and preservation (for winter consumption) of fresh fruits and vegetables grown at the Rock Springs research farm, via a combination of dining hall consumption, donation to area food banks, and sale to students and the public. (Some crops were sold on campus to students and the public via the Cellar Market until 2010; since then, virtually all fresh produce has been tilled under or composted after data collection).
  2. Change Penn State’s residential dining policy to require 20% of food purchased for dining hall consumption to be locally sourced by 2020. (Rachel Hoh – Class of ’13 – has done a lot of work around this issue, including defining the term “local”- see attachments – 6.18.13 Hoh Engle Memo – Local Food Definitions; 4.24.13 Hoh Report on First Locally Sourced Meal at PSU Dining; Hoh Thesis – PSU Student-Run Farm. The current amount of locally sourced food served in the dining halls is roughly 1 to 2% per year.)
  3. Change Penn State’s energy data reporting policies to require monthly public reporting of all energy consumed at the University Park campus – including both campus-generated energy and energy purchased from the grid – in mwh equivalents. (Current reporting is via EPA and DEP filings – which can be difficult to access – and PSU press releases which spin the data, making apples-to-apples comparisons of energy consumption changes over time difficult.)
  4. Change Penn State’s energy sourcing policies to require a 20% cut in fossil fuel consumption/combustion by the University Park campus by 2020 (counting both campus-generated energy and grid-purchased energy), through conservation to cut absolute energy consumption, combined with installation of renewable energy systems to displace fossil fuel use.

Further correspondence with Evan followed – 2.27.14 Watt – McTague Emails

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Mike Rybacki writes:

“Final Draft of West Campus Renewable Energy Plan enclosed – 2.26.14 Rybacki Renewable Energy Plan – Final.  It has the Q & A with OPP staff from October, a new active and passive conservation comment section, a copy of letter to Dr. Poole, PSU VP Admin., a CAD sketch update, and the one page Executive Brief.

I am so excited.  The Clean Air Council recently posted a reference to the October 30 DEP hearing and made the following quote: “It is hopeful that OPP recently analyzed a Penn State Renewable Energy Plan proposal written by Penn State graduate student Michael Rybacki.  The plan claims that by using geothermal heat pumps and some photovoltaic solar energy, the University could save over $272 million and prevent more than 4.6 billion lbs of air pollution from being emitted over 30 years. The Council urges decision-makers the OPP to use this document as a basis for completing their own voluntary alternatives analysis to determine the feasibility and cost savings of using a combination of additional energy efficiency measures and renewable energy in the form of geo-thermal and solar.”

Momentum is picking up in contacting State College Borough and Centre Region Council of Governments; in getting a Letter of Intent out for the $5 million Energy Prize from Georgetown University.

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State College Planning Commission Member Jon Eich wrote:

“Opportunity to incorporate solar into new Jordan Center roof?”

I wrote back:

“Are you interested in lobbying Steve [Maruszewski] on that idea?

Reinforcement:

“Natural gas futures have been unusually volatile this week as market sentiment swung between the reappearance of the polar vortex and anticipation that winter is coming to an end. After climbing to $6.50 per million BTUs on Monday prices fell precipitously to close Wednesday at $4.76. Weather forecasters are calling for another two weeks of cold during the early part of March with temperatures returning to normal after that. The extreme cold in the last two months has left gas inventories at their lowest level in ten years and are raising concerns that the industry will not be able replenish its stocks in time for next winter. This also raises questions about the viability of the drive to increase US natural gas exports and convert more electricity production to gas.”

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