Skip to Main Content


Accomplishments before the 2007 Climate Commitment

UMBC has implemented many energy conservation initiatives over the years.  Even before climate change and sustainability were mainstream issues, UMBC leveraged technology to conserve energy and reduce its impact on the environment.  Saving 11 million kWh of electricity per year and 620,000 Therms of natural gas per year, energy-related initiatives implemented before the 2007 Climate Commitment proactively reduced UMBC’s carbon footprint baseline by 9,300 MTeCO2.

These innovative projects included the following:

  • Upgraded pneumatic controls with Direct Digital Controls connected to a Building Automation System for better control of HVAC systems.
  • Upgraded exterior lighting for roadways, walkways, and parking lots to more efficient metal halide lamps.
  • Upgraded interior lighting from T12 to more efficient T8 lamps & ballasts and replaced incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs).
  • Converted air distribution systems in campus buildings from constant air volume to energy-efficient variable air volume (VAV) systems.
  • Retrofitted cooling/heating systems in the Central Plant with high-efficiency chillers, boilers, and hot water pumps. These hydronic systems provide cooling and heating for two-thirds of the campus.
  • Installed Thermal Energy Storage system at the Central Plant with 1.6 million gallon tank. Chilled water is produced at night, stored, and then used during the day.  This reduces campus electric load during peak daytime hours, improving the reliability and efficiency of the region’s electric grid.
  • Constructed Satellite Plant with high-efficiency chillers, boilers, and pumps to provide more efficient and reliable heating/cooling for residence halls and the dining hall.
  • Installed variable frequency drives (VFDs) on large fan motors and large pump motors for more efficient operation, improved control and extended motor life.

2007 Baseline Carbon Footprint

UMBC’s 2007 baseline carbon footprint was 88,710 MTeCO2.  The 2007 breakdown of greenhouse gas emissions by source showed 60.8 percent attributed to energy (46.2 percent from electricity and 14.6 percent from stationary combustion), 37.6 percent attributed to transportation, and the remaining one-point six percent attributed to other sources (solid waste, refrigerants, and agriculture). With energy being the largest contributor to UMBC’s carbon footprint, there was an immediate and continual focus on reducing energy consumption and greening the energy supply.

Lean & Green

There are two ways to reduce carbon footprint attributed to energy:  1) use less and 2) get more from renewable sources.  UMBC has done both!

  • In 2007, UMBC used 77 million kWh of electricity with 3.5% from renewable energy sources.
  • In 2018, UMBC used 65 million kWh of electricity with 33.3%  from renewable energy sources.

From 2007 to 2018, UMBC’s gross square footage increased by 19 percent (more space to heat, cool, light, etc.) and student enrollment increased by 18 percent (more equipment plugged in, more students living on campus, more EVs being charged on campus, etc.).  Based on this campus growth and associated electric demands, it would be reasonable for UMBC’s electricity consumption to increase by 15 million kWh.  However, thanks to UMBC’s focus on efficiency and energy-related investments, UMBC’s electricity consumption decreased by 12 million kWh (27 million kWh less than unmitigated growth would have required).

In other words, despite significant campus growth, UMBC used 15 percent less electricity in 2018 than in 2007.  Normalized to account for campus growth, UMBC’s electricity consumption per gross square foot (kWh/GSF) was 29 percent less in 2018 than in 2007.

Energy Conservation

The greenest kilowatt is not from wind or solar.  The greenest kilowatt is not generated at all; it is the kilowatt that is no longer needed due to conservation efforts.

Conservation is defined as any reduction in energy consumption.  Conservation can be achieved in many ways, ranging from complex technological upgrades that improve the efficiency of electrical/mechanical systems to simple behavioral changes such as turning off the lights.

Conservation is not glamorous, and most conservation efforts are invisible.  Few ever see the high-efficiency chillers, boilers, and HVAC systems that have been installed to provide the air conditioning and heating for the campus.  This equipment is safely out-of-sight in mechanical rooms, underground, on rooftops, or in ceilings.

Energy conservation initiatives implemented from 2008 to 2018 include the following:

  • LEED Construction – Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is the most widely used green building rating system in the world. LEED provides a framework that project teams apply to create highly efficient, green buildings.  UMBC is committed to designing new buildings and major renovations to meet or exceed LEED Silver standards.  Explore UMBC’s green buildings with the virtual green building tour. 
    • Patapsco Hall Addition (LEED Gold)
    • Apartment Community Center (LEED Silver)
    • Performing Arts and Humanities Building (LEED Gold)
    • UMBC Event Center (pending LEED Silver)
  • Central Plant Boiler Upgrades – Replaced two hot water generators with high-efficiency units and stack economizers. The high-temperature/high-pressure hot water system provides heating for two-thirds of the campus.
  • Green Office Program – The GO Program is a voluntary, sustainability certification program that provides resources to assist campus offices/departments in reducing waste, conserving energy, and promoting a culture of sustainability.
  • Energy Performance Contracting – EPC is a means for implementing energy-saving projects that essentially pay for themselves over time via the associated energy savings. An array of energy conservation measures were carefully evaluated, and the following projects were selected based upon operational needs and cost-effectiveness.
    • Chilled Water Optimization upgraded chilled water distribution system that provides cooling for two-thirds of the campus. This project also included upgrades that enable the Thermal Energy Storage system to provide emergency chilled water distribution for critical cooling during a power outage.  Completed in June 2013, this project generates annual savings of 5.7 million kWh and 3,100 MTeCO2
    • Lighting Upgrades retrofitted interior lighting fixtures throughout campus with more efficient lamps and ballasts, added occupancy sensors in many areas to automatically turn off lights, and upgraded lighting fixtures in all three parking garages with ultra-efficient LED fixtures. Completed in May 2015, this project generates annual savings of 6 million kWh and 3,200 MTeCO2.

Reducing energy consumption is an important and continuous effort.  However, there is a practical limit to how much energy can be saved.  The campus will always require energy to operate and serve UMBC’s educational and research needs.  How can we mitigate or eliminate the “unavoidable” greenhouse gas emissions associated with essential energy consumption?

Renewable Energy

One of the suggested tangible actions listed in the ACUPCC is, “[w]ithin one year of signing this document, begin purchasing or producing at least 15 percent of our institution’s electricity consumption from renewable sources.”  In May 2008, nine months after signing the ACUPCC, UMBC committed to getting 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources.  Initially, Maryland’s Conowingo Hydroelectric Plant was the primary source for UMBC’s renewable energy.  Since then, UMBC has shifted toward Tier I renewable sources (wind and solar) and has been ramping-up its renewable energy percentage.

Beginning in 2009, UMBC was involved in the State’s collaborative process for “Generating Clean Horizons,” a first-of-its-kind initiative to spur large-scale renewable projects in/near Maryland.  Renewable energy production from Clean Horizons began in 2011.  UMBC is buying Clean Horizons renewable energy via three Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs):  Pinnacle wind, Roth Rock wind, and Mount St.  Mary’s solar.  These PPAs include the electricity commodity and the associated/bundled Renewable Energy Credits (RECs).  Annually, UMBC gets about 10 million kWh from Clean Horizons PPAs, which is about 15% of the campus’ electricity.

To meet Maryland’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), the percentage of electricity that must come from various renewable sources each calendar year, UMBC purchases additional RECs as required.  The remainder of UMBC’s renewable energy comes from the strategic procurement of voluntary Green-e certified RECs.  In 2018, 33.3 % of UMBC’s electricity came from renewable energy sources.

UMBC’s renewable energy is being produced where it is most practical and on a large enough scale to make it economically viable.  UMBC’s renewable energy strategy supports the triple bottom line—environmental, social, and economic performance—for true sustainability.

2018 Carbon Footprint

UMBC’s 2018 carbon footprint was 70,816 MTeCO2.  The 2018 breakdown of greenhouse gas emissions by source showed 54.4 percent attributed to energy (33.5 percent from electricity and 20.9 percent from stationary combustion), 44.4 percent attributed to transportation, and the remaining one point two percent attributed to other sources (solid waste, refrigerants, and agriculture).

Comparing 2018 to the 2007 baseline, despite significant campus growth, UMBC’s reduced its carbon footprint by 17,894 MTeCO2, a reduction of 20 percent.  Normalized to account for campus growth, UMBC’s carbon footprint per gross square foot (MTeCO2/GSF) was 33 percent less in 2018 than in 2007.

The only offsets through 2018 have been RECs, which by definition, are attributed entirely to electricity.  Net electricity is total electricity consumption minus electricity from renewable sources.

Net emissions attributed to energy are net electricity (i.e., electricity minus RECs) plus stationary combustion.

  • In 2007, UMBC’s energy footprint was (42,029 – 1,051) + 12,965 = 53,943 MTeCO2.
  • In 2018, UMBC’s energy footprint was (35,549 – 11,850) + 14,826 = 38,525 MTeCO2.

By using less electricity and getting more from renewable sources, UMBC’s energy footprint has been reduced by 15,418 MTeCO2.  Successful energy initiatives are responsible for 86 percent (15,414/17,894) of UMBC’s carbon footprint reduction through 2018.

It is worth noting that as one piece of the carbon footprint pie is successfully reduced, the other pieces of the pie will increase proportionally.  For example, the reduction of electricity from 46.2 percent in 2007 to 33.5 percent in 2018, has contributed to increased percentages for stationary combustion (from 14.6 percent in 2007 to 20.9 percent in 2018) and transportation (from 37.6 percent in 2007 to 44.4 percent in 2018).

Although the carbon footprint associated with electricity has been significantly reduced, electricity is still the biggest single piece of UMBC’s carbon footprint pie.  In the Future Energy Steps, there is a plan to get electricity to net-zero as well as stationary combustion to net-zero.