UC Berkeley News


It takes a campus.
. to change a lightbulb. No joke: Berkeley receives statewide award for saving energy

| 09 November 2005

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has recognized Berkeley's ongoing effort to conserve resources with a 2005 "Flex Your Power" award. Among the 35 businesses, local governments, and institutions so honored, Berkeley was chosen as one of three winners in the "best overall" category.

"We want to showcase UC Berkeley's success and leadership in energy and sustainability improvements," says Catherine Squire, the City of Berkeley sustainable-development coordinator who nominated the campus for the award. "UC Berkeley is a major innovator in our town, and we want other organizations to emulate its efforts."

The campus is being recognized in three areas: energy efficiency, education, and leadership.

"We're happy to get recognition, because Physical Plant has been involved in energy conservation since the '70s," says Paul Black, a utilities-engineering manager in Physical Plant-Campus Services (PP-CS). The lighting-technology upgrades that have been implemented in the past few years represent the third generation of energy efficiency, explains Black. "We've done lighting retrofits several times in some areas, because the technology keeps improving."

More than 6,000 fluorescent-light fixtures on campus have been modified in the past three years to use fewer watts, resulting in reduced power use. PP-CS also implemented a pilot program last year to track power use and conservation results in several buildings by establishing regular communications with building-facilities staff. Significant savings have been realized in California Hall and University Hall.

Berkeley students are also playing a key role in energy-saving efforts and education. For the past two years, the Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC) and Graduate Assembly (GA) have allocated significant chunks of their budgets - 8.5 percent and roughly 10 percent respectively - to convert the Martin Luther King, Jr. Student Union to solar power. The two student groups allocated $50,000 each from their 2002-03 and 2003-04 budgets, and plan to expand the system by giving the same amounts in the current year. As part of a renewable incentive program, the CPUC provided funds in the amount of $270,000.

Let there be lightbulb swaps

Green Campus, a student-led campaign to educate and encourage students, faculty, and staff to be more energy-efficient, has teamed up with two campus units - Campus Recycling and Refuse Services and Residential & Student Service Programs (RSSP) - on a number of programs. The compact-fluorescent-lightbulb (CFL) exchange program swaps students' incandescent bulbs for 15-watt CFLs. Last fall, 1,500 CFLs were distributed. RSSP footed the bill for the new bulbs and for recycling the incandescent bulbs, and the Green Campus and Residential Sustainability Education Coordinators distributed the CFLs at a table in the Dining Commons once a week. A conservative estimate of the savings netted by this program: $2,000.

Green Campus also coordinates Blackout Battles, an energy-saving competition designed to persuade students in campus residence halls to reduce their energy use and help raise awareness of the effects of electricity consumption. The students who won the competition this past winter were rewarded with an ice-cream party and a choice of ping-pong table or pool table for their residence hall. The competition resulted in a 7.23-percent decrease in energy usage compared to 2004 rates and a cost reduction of $5,000 for the month of February. Blackout Battles are being reprised this fall.

"The award is an amazing achievement for our campus," says Desirae Early, a program coordinator for Green Campus involved in the Blackout Battles. Early, a sophomore majoring in environmental economics and policy, has noticed an increase in concern about sustainability issues on campus during her year and a half working for the program. "Everybody is trying to work together," she says, noting that the collaboration with Residential and Student Services "has made a big difference."