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Stimulus-Funded Program to Improve Campus' Energy Efficiency

January 18, 2011
UC Merced to receive $600,000 in technical assistance from U.S. Department of Energy's Commercial Building Partnerships, which will provide $21 million to 24 projects nationwide

The University of California, Merced, will receive $600,000 in technical assistance from the U.S. Department of Energy as part of the Commercial Building Partnerships program, which is designed to accelerate the deployment of cost-effective, energy-saving measures in commercial buildings across the country.

The campus is one of 24 projects that will receive a total of $21 million in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Additional projects include other universities, such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of South Carolina, and retail businesses like Home Depot, Walmart and Twentieth Century Fox.

UC Merced is using the assistance to deploy an “energy performance platform” that will provide unique capability to monitor the energy performance of its buildings and dispatch technicians to maintain efficiency over time. In addition, a team of engineers will identify opportunities to improve the efficiency of the campus’ central plant and a laboratory building.

John Elliott, who applied for the assistance and is UC Merced’s assistant director of energy and sustainability, said the campus is relying on energy efficiency to move 60 percent closer to its goal of zero net energy — creating as much energy as is used — by 2020. The campus has a unique program in place to design its buildings to consume half of the energy of other university buildings in California.

“I expect that the energy performance platform developed with this assistance will be the primary tool that our campus will use to ensure that all of the energy efficiency we put into our buildings will be maintained over time,” Elliott said.

Teams of private-sector technical experts and personnel from three national laboratories — Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory — will guide the three-year projects, which will also provide comprehensive case studies to help spur wider adoption of energy-efficient practices.

“These Recovery Act projects are bringing together experts from our national laboratories and the private sector to help businesses and organizations reduce the energy they use in their facilities, saving them money on their energy bills and making them more competitive economically,” U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said.

“This initiative will also demonstrate to other commercial building operators that cost-effective, energy-efficient technologies exist today that will help lower the operating and energy costs of their buildings.”

UC Merced’s goal of zero net energy is part of its “Triple Zero Commitment,” which also includes eliminating landfill waste and producing zero net greenhouse gas emissions, all by 2020. The campus is also the only one in the country to have all of its buildings certified by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program.