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MIT To Cool Down Energy Usage

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is teaming up with a utility company in its home state to reduce its electricity use by 15 percent over three years. The institute will work with NSTAR in a sustainability program dubbed "MIT Efficiency Forward" to create innovative programs, engage the campus community, and pilot new technologies and approaches at MIT. In a three-year period, the target energy savings is 34 million kilowatt-hours, equivalent, the institution said, to the amount of electricity used by more than 4,500 Massachusetts homes in a given year.

The new program, said President Susan Hockfield, will "capitalize on one of MIT's core strengths: the passion of our faculty, staff, and students to tackle the world's most challenging problems." She added, "Right here on the MIT campus, we will pursue one of the major opportunities to reduce energy consumption: finding Smart, sensible, economic approaches to energy efficiency. Our participation in the program signals that the solutions for today's climate and energy challenges will come not only from our research laboratories and classrooms, but also from practice-based management innovations."

Susan Coakley of Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships, a nonprofit that promotes partnerships to advance energy efficiency in the Northeast, said MIT Efficiency Forward's three-year goal to reduce consumption by 15 percent was both "aggressive" and "achievable." She said the goal was in line with that of other major research institutions and universities such as Princeton University, which is working to reduce overall utility usage on campus by at least 25 percent over the next decade.

Some of the measures being tried at MIT include combining heat and power generation, doing sustainable design and construction, and rewarding people to change their commuting practices. The utility company projected a $50 million savings over the lifetime of the projects, given successful completion. The company will work with MIT to improve the efficiency of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning; electrical and lab systems; and lighting fixture and control upgrades.

Students will also participate in activities facilitated by the program's Student Advisory Group. Building on work coordinated by the MIT Energy Initiative's Campus Energy Task Force using MIT's campus as a laboratory, the new program will provide research, educational, and learning opportunities through project-based coursework. The initiative will include student efforts to measure, monitor, and verify energy savings.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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