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In recent years, institutional climate action targets, renewable energy subsidies and the rapidly falling costs of wind and solar have led more large institutions to begin purchasing significant quantities of off-site renewable energy. The practice has grown rapidly, from 70 megawatts purchased in 2012 to over 2,780 megawatts as of February. Naturally, all these new renewables are reducing pollution. But exactly how much pollution?
The Boston Green Ribbon Commission Higher Education Working Group, an alliance of leading sustainability-minded institutions, aimed to find out. The Working Group’s chair, Harvard University, partnered with WattTime (a Rocky Mountain Institute subsidiary) and Meister Consultants Group (a Cadmus Company) to conduct a study exploring methods for quantifying the actual emissions impacts of institutional renewable energy purchases. The results were intriguing.
Notably, the study, “Institutional Renewable Energy Procurement: Quantitative Impacts Addendum,” found that the answers may be less straightforward than they initially appear. Evidently, not all renewable energy projects are equally effective at reducing emissions.