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Making Carbon Neutrality a Reality at DU

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Emma Atkinson

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The University of Denver partners with a solar energy company to offset 100% of its electricity use over the next three years.

solar panels on the roof of the RItchie Center.

The University of Denver is taking a bold step toward reaching its goal of carbon neutrality by the year 2030.

Today, the University announced a new partnership with solar power company Pivot Energy to build six off-site solar installations around Colorado. Through net metering, the sites will offset 100% of DU’s electricity use. Pivot will also assist in the installation of an additional on-campus solar array on the roof of the Ritchie Center.

“I am so proud of the University of Denver for its commitment to ensuring we do our part in reducing carbon emissions and slowing the advancement of climate change,” says Chancellor Jeremy Haefner. “By undertaking these projects, we are making a measurable difference not just for our community, but for the world.”

Solar panels on the roof of the Anderson Academic Commons.
Solar panels on the roof of the Anderson Academic Commons.

The University’s electricity use represents 40% of its carbon footprint. Once the solar arrays are online and the net metering has begun, the solar energy produced by the arrays will offset that 40% in its entirety.

“What's unique about net metering is that you can actually apply that energy directly to your electric bills here on campus,” explains Lynn Bailey, DU’s director of energy and sustainability facilities management. “In effect, it is virtual—they call it virtual net metering because we are actually producing the energy somewhere else.”

The new solar arrays will be built in Larimer, Adams, Mesa and Weld counties and will take 24-36 months to complete. Bailey says the sites will also provide educational opportunities for DU students.

Electricity is just one aspect of Haefner’s plan to reach carbon neutrality.

DU will also address the carbon produced by University-related travel, including for business needs, study abroad and more.

“We will implement a carbon offset program that invests in projects such as reforestation, renewable energy, agriculture land management, etc.,” Haefner says. “This will eliminate equivalent carbon output elsewhere, resulting in the reduction of our carbon footprint.”

In addition to reducing the travel-related carbon output, the University plans to address its natural gas usage through conservation measures and efficiency upgrades and by converting natural gas-heating systems on campus to electric ones.

In 2008, the University of Denver joined what is now known as the Presidents’ Climate Leadership Commitments, and the University’s original commitment was to reaching carbon neutrality by 2050.

However, during his inauguration in 2021, Haefner announced that DU would move up its timeline by two decades and commit to being carbon neutral by 2030.

Bailey says the Pivot partnership represents a crucial turning point for the University’s journey to carbon neutrality.

“This is the key step,” he says. “For us, it’s the key step on the roadmap to carbon neutrality. It's huge—the size of these projects—and I think ultimately it’s pretty awesome to be able to say that that we will be 100% on renewable electricity.”

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