For its successful efforts in reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) has received more than $1.18 million in performance payments from the Clean Energy Optimization Pilot, a four-year, $20 million effort administered by Southern California Edison (SCE).
Approved by the California Public Utilities Commission and launched by SCE in July 2019, the performance-based Clean Energy Optimization Pilot gives partnering California State University (CSU) and University of California (UC) campuses performance payments to identify and apply sustainable actions to reduce the release of greenhouse gases. Along with CSUDH, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona and five UC campuses and medical centers are participating.
Due to COVID-19, the first year of the pilot was shortened to nine months – from July 2019 to March 2020 – to reflect the amount of energy used by the campuses during normal operational capacity. During that time, CSUDH reduced its release of carbon dioxide (C02) by 14,281 metric tons, achieving the highest percentage of GHG reduction among the participants.
“We are all incredibly happy with what we have accomplished, and have exceeded our own expectations,” said CSUDH’s Central Plant/Energy Manager Kenny Seeton. “This was a wonderful opportunity for us to prove to the rest of the community what we can all achieve with the right support to combat climate change.”
Funded through SCE’s GHG cap-and-trade auction revenues, compensation for the campuses is based on actual metered results, and success is measured on GHG emissions avoided, rather than the standard method of measuring reduced energy use. The rebate checks the partners receive are based on approximately $70 for each metric ton of C02 reduction. CSUDH will use its SCE performance payment funds to continue expanding its current projects that make the campus more energy efficient.
In 2019, under Seeton’s direction, the university upgraded its natural gas absorption chillers with electric chillers, and one large natural gas boiler with eight small condensing staged boilers. The data showed a substantial (57 percent) reduction in natural gas usage, and the cooling tower water savings from the reduced thermal load resulted in a drop of 2.8 million gallons in water usage in one year.
The new electric chillers have contributed significantly to CSUDH’s GHG reduction and energy savings during the SCE partnership, as did new LED lighting and smart sensors that were installed on campus in both LaCorte Hall and Welch Hall.
“Southern California Edison was extremely pleased with the first-year results from the first-ever GHG based pilot effort,” said SCE Senior Account Manager Lisa Hannaman. “CSU Dominguez Hills was a true leader in the pilot by reducing the highest percentage of GHG emissions. We can’t wait to see what more can be done as we work toward a clean energy future.”
CSUDH has a long-standing history of pursuing sustainable practices in all areas of the university and has made it a priority to implement innovative projects to help California meet its 2030 GHG targets, and new projects are continuously in development.
In October 2020, the Central Plant launched a solar thermal project to heat water and gauge GHG reduction and monetary savings. The department also installed recycled solar panels and batteries in CSUDH’s Urban Farm to run such devices as scales to weigh produce and do research, and lights for the farm’s aquaponics tank.
“If we prove that solar thermal is viable, we will then create a pilot phase change project (matter changing from solid, liquid, and gas) for thermal storage with the potential to store the excess hot water that we produce in the daytime. If it works, we won’t need to burn gas in the boilers at night anymore,” explained Seeton.
Central Plant is also finishing up the development of a condensate (liquid formed by condensation) recovery project for all air cooling and distribution units accessible through the CSUDH’s extensive underground tunnel system. When complete, the university is expected to recover nearly 1 million gallons of water per year, which will be piped into the cooling towers.
Upcoming projects for the Social and Behavioral Science Building include the same innovative LED lighting upgrades installed in LaCorte Hall and Welch Hall, and its HVAC system will be upgraded from its original pneumatic to digital controls.
Central Plant has relied on grants and outside entities for all its sustainability projects since Seeton arrived on campus in 2011, including the CSU Office of the Chancellor, which invests $3.3 million each year in CSUDH’s GHG saving projects.
“We’re doing what we can to maximize savings by tweaking the system, adjusting things, and taking advantage of all financial opportunities that come our way so we can maximize our GHG savings,” said Seeton. “We want the world to know that CSUDH is one of the leaders in energy efficiency and sustainability.”