UMass Amherst targets all-renewable energy by 2032

The University of Massachusetts Amherst wants to run on 100% renewable energy by 2032, a goal leaders of the flagship campus announced after two years of planning.

Estimating that the effort will require an investment of at least $500 million, UMass Amherst officials said they plan “to develop a diverse portfolio of university and external funding to pay for UMass Carbon Zero infrastructure improvements and Living Lab research and teaching through federal, state, corporate and philanthropic sources, as well as energy- and decarbonization-related funding.”

Chancellor Kumble Subbaswammy said the UMass Carbon Zero plan can serve as a model for other large research universities.

“Given our size, we are responsible for approximately 20% of overall greenhouse gas emissions of Massachusetts public facilities — making us the single largest contributor among state entities,” he said in a statement. “So, our success in this energy transition will be the commonwealth’s success.”

If UMass Amherst reaches its goal, it will reach carbon neutrality for its 300 campus buildings well ahead of 2050, the target established under a 2021 state law for Massachusetts to achieve net-zero carbon emissions.

According to Environment Massachusetts, the plan rolled out on Earth Day involves retiring the campus’ steam-heating network and replacing it with low-temperature hot water for heating, making efficiency improvements, and adopting higher green building standards. It aims for 80% reliance on renewable energy — for electricity, heating, cooling and transportation — by 2030, the same year eyed for the campus fleet to have fully shifted to electric vehicles.

“Repowering a major university campus with renewable energy is no small task, but it is a necessary one,” Ben Hellerstein of Environment Massachusetts said. “The work underway at UMass sets a powerful example for other institutions, and state leaders on Beacon Hill, to follow.”

– Katie Lannan / SHNS

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