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MIT Energy Savings Program Beats First Year Goal

A partnership between the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Massachusetts energy company to reduce electrical use on campus by 15 percent has surpassed the initial target a year after it was formed. MIT and NSTAR; the state's largest electric and gas utility, have implemented projects that have reduced emissions by at least 13 million kilowatt hours; the initial target was 10 million.

The goal for the $14 million, three-year program is to cut energy consumption by a total of 34 million kilowatt hours. The total savings over the lifetime of the efficiency measures is estimated at $50 million.

Efficiency Forward, as the initiative is named, leverages funds from MIT, NSTAR incentive payments, and reinvestment of energy savings in various projects. What's unique is the extent of the collaboration between MIT and NSTAR. According to NSTAR, it's the largest efficiency project ever undertaken by the company, and it reflects the state's focus on energy efficiency. Under a law enacted in 2008, utility companies must expand the use of rebates and other rewards for customers to upgrade lighting, air conditioning, and industrial equipment to more efficient systems whenever the incentives are less than the cost to generate the electricity to power the less-efficient equipment.

As part of the deal, MIT is promoting community involvement in energy conservation and efficiency. That includes getting academic groups on campus to integrate project-based learning and research opportunities into the curriculum and to engage students through a student advisory group and study projects.

Initially announced in May 2010, the program includes tackling sustainable construction projects that use highly efficient heating, cooling, and lighting technologies; doing major equipment retrofits in existing buildings; and pushing for changes in behavior, such as reducing lighting, implementing computer power management features, and holding dorm/office/lab electricity competitions.

Calling the reduction goal both aggressive and achievable, MIT president Susan Hockfield said she's "delighted" with the Institute's progress. "Efficiency Forward is demonstrating the rapid efficiency gains we can achieve by inspiring broad participation across our community. In this effort, NSTAR has been a vital partner, and we hope the model of our on-going collaboration will spur other organizations to seize the opportunities of energy efficiency."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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