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Portland State creates revolving fund for energy efficiency projects
Author: Laura Gleim, Institute for Sustainable Solutions
Posted: November 19, 2013

Portland State University launched last month a $500,000 Green Revolving Fund to support projects on campus that reduce PSU’s greenhouse gas emissions, result in lower utility bills and advance the goals of the University’s Climate Action Plan.

Here’s how it works: A committee of PSU staff and faculty will select projects that improve the condition of campus buildings and reduce their environmental impact. The projects must result in measurable savings to utility bills, enough to pay back the cost of each project within 10 years. Once the project is implemented, the savings from utility bills will be circulated back into the Green Revolving Fund and reinvested in future sustainability projects that create a similar savings-payback loop.

Potential projects include upgrading lighting fixtures, installing motion sensing controls and replacing aging boilers with high efficiency models. Funds can also be used to implement water efficiency projects, such as self-monitoring irrigation systems.

“Given our older inventory of buildings, we have a sizable backlog of maintenance needs on campus,” said Jennifer McNamara, PSU’s sustainability manager. “The Green Revolving Fund allows us to improve campus infrastructure while prioritizing projects that help us meet our climate action goals.”

With the $500,000 fund, PSU joins 40 other institutions participating in the Billion Dollar Green Challenge, a program of the Sustainable Endowments Institute that calls on colleges and universities to invest a combined total of a billion dollars into self-managed revolving funds that finance energy efficiency projects. A total of $75 million has been committed to date. Two other Oregon institutions, Oregon State University and Lane Community College, are also participating in the challenge.

PSU’s Climate Action Plan calls for carbon neutrality by 2040. Nearly 55 percent of the University’s carbon emissions come from the natural gas and electricity used to operate campus buildings.