UCLA creates nation’s largest self-replenishing fund for green projects

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The below coverage from University of California news provides a great example of the value (and win-win) of developing an energy efficiency fund:

UCLA has already invested $20 million in energy-efficient building retrofits during the past five years. It is the 46th institution in the nation to join the Billion Dollar Green Challenge, which encourages colleges and universities to create their own sustainability-focused revolving funds — pools of money that are continually replenished when loan recipients return some or all of their cost savings each year.

Nurit Katz, UCLA’s chief sustainability officer, said creating the UCLA Energy and Sustainability Revolving Fund is a way to acknowledge that sustainability isn’t just a way to help minimize climate change — it’s a good financial investment, too.

“UCLA has a long history of energy efficiency projects, and we’ve seen that it’s a good investment with a good return, with some of our projects earning back their costs in less than a year,” Katz said. “Committing to energy efficiency is a big part of our strategy to combat climate change and meet the University of California’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2025.”

Previous projects at UCLA have included the installation of thousands of occupancy sensors that turn off lights when rooms or hallways are empty; massive retrofits of heating, ventilation and cooling systems; and campuswide replacements of old light bulbs with significantly more efficient models, in classrooms, auditoriums, streetlights and parking structures. Now, the savings from those types of projects will fund future projects, Katz said.

“Let’s say we spent $1 million on a project that allowed us to save $250,000 annually on energy costs, which is pretty normal,” Katz said. “Half of the savings — $125,000 — now would go back into the revolving loan fund until the $1 million is paid back. So people realize these projects aren’t just an expense. They’re an investment.”

The fund will be created through bond financing and will not use tuition or student fees. Supporters will also be able to donate to the fund to support sustainability at UCLA. (Read more here.)

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