Sunday, January 21, 2007

President and CEO of Duquesne Light Holdings Appointed to Pitt’s Board of Trustees

The Pitt Chronicle reported on June 26, 2006 that Morgan K. O'Brien, president and CEO of Duquesne Light Holdings, was appointed by Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell and confirmed by the Pennsylvania Senate to be a Commonwealth trustee on Pitt’s Board of Trustees.

Depending upon whether FirstEnergy is still Pitt's supplier (and the press release cited in my last post is not up to date) or whether Duquesne has replaced FirstEnergy, this appointment could have an impact on the future prospects of the CGUP. If Duquesne Light is currently Pitt's supplier then it would seem unlikely that Mr. O'Brien would vote in favor of Pitt purchasing 10% of its energy from renewable energy sources (RES), and thereby lower Duquesne Light's revenues.

The Board of Trustees is composed of 36 voting members, therefore, Mr. O'Brien's vote would be 1/19th of a majority. Here is some interesting information on the constitution of the Board:

The Board of Trustees is composed of thirty-six voting members consisting of: the Chancellor; seventeen Term Trustees, elected by the Board; six Alumni Trustees, elected by the Board, on nominations by the University Alumni Association Board of Directors; and twelve Commonwealth Trustees, four each appointed by the Governor, the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House. There is, in addition, a class of fourteen Special Trustees elected by the Board of Trustees. They may attend all meetings of the Board and are entitled to and exercise all rights, responsibilities, and privileges of Trusteeship, except the right to vote at Board meetings. The Board of Trustees includes the Governor of Pennsylvania, the Secretary of Education, and the Mayor of the City of Pittsburgh, all three of whom are non-voting, ex officio members.

Friday, January 19, 2007

FirstEnergy Solutions Selected to Supply Electricity to The University of Pittsburgh

First Energy Solutions posted a press release on its website in which it claims to be the Pitt's electricity supplier. According to First Energy's most recent Environmental Disclosure, none of the electricity it produces comes from wind energy.

69% = Coal
24% = Nuclear
1% = Hydro
6% = Unkown

Here is a pie chart from the Environmental disclosure:

Friday, October 27, 2006

Heinz Endowment Supports Renewable Energy at UPMC

In an article in today's Post Gazette, the Heinz Endowment is said to have donated $250,000 to UPMC in order to implement a "systemwide environmental health and sustainability program". Here is a snippet from the article:

A special initiative to green the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center is moving forward with $250,000 to begin a systemwide environmental health and sustainability program. The goal is to create an organizational model that can be adopted by other health care systems across the country. Included in the program will be policies promoting green building, use of renewable energy and green purchasing.

The donation by the Heinz Endowment demonstrates that grant money is out there to support green energy initiatives. The University and the students themselves would not necessarily have to pay the entire cost of switching to renewable energy purchases.

Friday, September 22, 2006

"An Inconvenient Truth About Youth" and "Youth's" Reply

In an article in the Washington Post, Laura Wray, a graduate student, and Constance Flanagan, a professor, at Penn State University argue that todays youth are far less concerned with the environment than their predecessors in the 70's and 80's. The authors attribute the decline in environmental activism among youth to the rise in consumer culture.

In response to the article, Eliza Simon, a National Campus Climate Challenge Organizer, wrote:

Young and Green

Wednesday, September 20, 2006; A24

In "An Inconvenient Truth About Youth" [op-ed, Sept. 11], Laura Wray and Constance Flanagan contend that the apathy of young people toward conservation will be changed only through government action. Considering the Bush administration's environmental record, we're in a world of trouble if they're correct. Good thing they're wrong.

Far from shirking their responsibility to our planet, young people are leading the way in the fight to stop global warming -- and to open their elders' eyes to the crisis.

Two examples: Students at Western Washington University taxed themselves an extra $19 in student fees to fund the purchase of renewable energy, and students at Pennsylvania State University -- where Ms. Flanagan teaches and Ms. Wray studies -- gathered more than 4,700 letters asking the administration to embrace the Kyoto Protocol. They have also secured green building standards, a campus wind turbine and a plan to have 22 percent of the school's power come from renewables by 2012.

That is only the tip of the (melting) iceberg. Youth is leading; government should follow.


National Campus Climate Challenge


Sierra Student Coalition


I believe the University of Pittsburgh students will ultimately prove to be as environmentally concerned as students at Western Washington University.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Talloires Declaration: A Commitment to Environmental Sustainability

In 1990, Jean Mayer, President of Tufts University, invited university leaders throughout the world to convene in Talloires, France, in order to discuss and define the role of institutions of higher learning in the debate on environmental sustainability. Twenty-two presidents, rectors, and chancellors of distinguished universities throughout the globe, attended the confererance from October 4-7 at Tufts' European University Center in Talloires. Assisted by internationally renown envirnomental experts, the convenors discussed the responsibility that universities have, as the educators of tomorrow's environmental policy makers in order to ensure that our future would be in the hands of men and women educated on the fundamental importance of environmental sustainability.

The convenors stressed the importance of the university as a role model, asserting that:

The university is a microcosm of the larger community, and the manner in which it carries out its daily activities is an important demonstration of ways to achieve environmentally responsible living. By practicing what it preaches, the university can both engage the students in understanding the institutional metabolism of materials and activities, and have them actively participate to minimize pollution and waste.

The result of the conference was the Talloires Declaration.

The signatory's of the declaration considered it to me an important first step in mobilizing the considerable resources of universities to work in the direction of an environmentally sustainable future. They pledged mutual support and that they would take actions at their own campuses to implement the recommendations of the declaration.

The University of Pittsburgh, was one of three universities in the United States to be original signatories to this historic document!

The following are the original recommendations:


University presidents must take action to focus university attention on environment, population, and development issues. They should:

1. Use every opportunity to raise public, government, foundation, and university awareness by publicly speaking out on the importance of environmental concerns.

2. Seek large increases in the funding of interdisciplinary, environmental research. Research funds are often earmarked for traditional disciplines, resulting in the continuing compartmentalization of problems and solutions. The funding available for research on population, environment, and sustainable development is a tiny fraction of that available for basic science, defense, and aerospace.

3. Encourage outstanding scholars who engage in research and teaching on environmental topics, and help them lead other scholars in this direction.

4. Establish programs in all major disciplines to teach about environment, population, and sustainable development in the context of these disciplines.

5. Work with faculty to change tenure and promotion requirements to reward interdisciplinary work on environment, population, and sustainable development issues.

6. Set aside funding and create positions for interdepartmental and interschool faculty who will research and teach population, environment, and sustainable development topics.

7. Appoint a special adviser, an environmental programs dean, or faculty group to promote environmental programs within the university.

8. Encourage multidisciplinary thinking with the use of internships, capstone and integrating seminars, work study, and case studies.

9. Establish a university environmental policy to engage faculty, staff, administration, and students in activities such as energy and water conservation, and recycling. Encourage vendors who supply schools with products and services to act in an environmentally responsible manner when manufacturing their products and delivering their services.

10. Develop cooperative programs with universities in other countries to promote faculty and student exchanges, collaborative research, and education programs that develop international understanding.

11. Establish multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary structures, such as "centers of excellence" for research, education, and policy development within the university.

12. Establish partnerships with primary and secondary schools to enhance the capability of their faculty in teaching about population, environment, and sustainable development issues.

I emphasized recommendation #10 because it is the most relevant to the goal of the Campaign for a Greener University of Pittsburgh. Recommendation #10 calls on the universities to:

Encourage vendors who supply schools with products and services to act in an environmentally responsible manner when manufacturing their products and delivering their services.

Pitt spends approximately $30 million on electricity each year. How can the environmental impact of such a significant product be overlooked by the university? Since the university currently purchases none of its energy from renewable resources, it must be purchasing most of its energy from coal plants (and some from nuclear plants). Coal plants produce millions of tons of pollution on a daily basis while wind generators produce none.

I plan to grade the University of Pittsburgh (on a A-F scale) in the upcoming weeks on the extent to which it has lived up to the commitment it made in signing the Talloires Declaration. I will examine each of the 12 reccomendations individually and then take the average score. I know that the university has excelled in some regards but it is sorely lacking in many others.

Do you think the university has lived up to its commitement?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Areas with the Highest Wind Potential in the U.S.

As you can see, the region with the greatest wind resources in the U.S. is the midwest. In fact, the GAO states that:

The nation's wind potential--particularly in areas with frequent, strong winds needed to generate electricity from wind power--remains largely untapped. According to a DOE study, the Midwest, including the Great Plains, theoretically has more than enough potential wind energy to fulfill the entire nation's electricity needs. Specifically, just three wind-rich states--North Dakota, Texas, and Kansas--could accomplish this.

Among the eastern states, Pennsylvania appears to be the state with the greatest wind resources. In the map, it appears as if about two thirds of Pennsylvania has moderate and good resources. This means that it is not due to lack of wind resources that Pitt has yet to purchase renewable energy.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Another University Setting a Good Example!

FL's Pack Big Savings at University of Guelph

September 3, 2006 01:32 PM - Lloyd Alter, Toronto

guelph.jpgWhat better place to inculcate young people with the idea of saving energy than a university, and what a good example of the effectiveness of changing over to compact flourescents. At the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, they changed all 6,600 bulbs in student residences to CFL's. Results: 810,000 kWH less consumption per year; $ 64,000 saved in power purchases; 751,000 kg of CO2 not put into the atmosphere. We like also how students voted to spend extra money on 100% wind power for their student-run cafeteria. Go Guelph! ::Sustainability at U of G