The University currently purchases only 0.3 percent of its electricity from renewable resources. The Michigan Student Assembly passed a resolution Tuesday night urging the administration to change that.
The MSA Environmental Issues Commission, which recommended the resolution, said MSA’s support is the first step in changing the University’s stance on renewable energy purchases. Now the Environmental Issues Commission must gain the support of University President Mary Sue Coleman and the rest of the administration.
The resolution comes amid growing concern about climate change.
In 2005, the University purchased 497,300,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity at a cost of $76 million, up from $52 million the previous year. A significant amount of the electricity the University consumes is purchased from the University Central Power Plant on Huron Street, which burns natural gas and fuel oil.
Dean of Students Sue Eklund was noncommittal when asked about the proposal.
“Sustainability is important for the University, and we always try to look for a good mix between what state funding allows and what we can do for the environment,” she said. “That said, the support of students is critical to any effort to become a more sustainable University.”
The commission’s goal, as stated in the resolution, is to have the University purchase a third of its total energy from renewable sources by this fall. The commission hopes to increase that proportion to half by 2011 and completely convert the University to renewable energy sources by 2015.
Electricity produced from wind power sells at about a half-cent more per kilowatt-hour than fossil fuels.
The commission specifically recommended that the University look into purchasing wind power.
“Michigan and the Midwest in general have a huge untapped potential for wind power,” said LSA senior Shari Pomerantz, co-chair of the commission.
Purchasing a third of its electricity from renewable sources would cost the University about $820,500 more per year. Doing so would also make the University consume the most renewable energy of any American university.
Members of the commission said the University has the financial resources available to make this shift.
Last fall, the Environmental Issues Commission met with University administrators and lobbied them to purchase more renewable energy. Pomerantz said administrators, citing budget constraints were hesitant revamp the University’s energy policy.
“It may seem like a huge goal,” Pomerantz said. “But it is what other universities are committing to, what other institutions have achieved.”
New York University purchases 100 percent of its electricity from renewable sources. It has been recognized by the Department of Energy as one of the leading American colleges in the field of sustainability.
Members of the commission believe that the University could have a significant impact on the electricity market in the state and help drive the development of renewable power sources.
“We need to make a statement of demand for renewable energy so that the state produces more,” said LSA junior Chris Detjen, the commission’s other co-chair.
The commission hopes to gain the support of students through increasing membership in environmental organizations on campus, Detjen said. They also plan on raising awareness for their campaign during Earth Week this March.