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New Rankings Compare Colleges and Universities on Progress Toward Clean Energy

BOSTON – Environment America Research & Policy Center is announcing which schools are in and out when it comes to the transition to renewable energy. In a new study released in early April, colleges and universities were ranked in five categories based on their shift to renewable energy sources like solar and wind power.

“If the world is to avert the most devastating effects of dependence on fossil fuels, our leading educational institutions must play a role,” says Susan Rakov, chair of Environment America Research & Policy Center’s clean energy program. “College and university campuses are hubs of innovation and activism where lifelong habits and commitments are forged. The campuses we’re highlighting today are taking their responsibility seriously—not just for education, but for setting a standard and leading the way toward a better future.”

The top-ranking schools in each category are:

  • Most renewable electricity: Southwestern (Texas) University
  • Most renewable electricity on-campus: University of Minnesota, Morris
  • Most renewable electricity purchased from off-campus sources: George Washington (DC) University
  • Most renewable heating, cooling, hot water and other non-electric energy: Colgate (New York) University
  • Highest percentage of electric campus vehicles: Ringling (Florida) College of Art and Design

Campuses from 19 states and Washington, DC, are featured in these rankings, which offer a multi-dimensional snapshot of progress toward 100 percent renewable energy. The rankings, which list the top 10 in each category, are based on colleges’ and universities’ reports to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s (AASHE) Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Ratings System (STARS). The categories for renewable electricity, renewable electricity on-campus, renewable electricity off-campus and renewable heating, cooling, hot water, and other non-electric energy are calculated per student.

“The colleges and universities leading the rankings are at the top of the class when it comes to tackling climate change and transitioning to clean, renewable energy sources,” says Bronte Payne, Environment America’s 100% Renewable Campuses Campaign director. “Future and current students care deeply about the role higher education is playing in the fight against climate change. With this report, they now have valuable data regarding which colleges and universities are leading the charge to a renewable energy future.”

This report comes amid a wave of action on college campuses during the past year. This fall, the University of California system announced a shift to using only renewable sources for its electricity by 2025, and, starting this June, its 10 campuses will also require new buildings to run on non-fossil fuel power. This spring, the University of California, Berkeley, committed to getting all of its energy—electricity, heating and cooling, and transportation—from renewable sources by 2050.

On the East Coast, Boston University, which has the largest student body of any university in Massachusetts, announced plans to purchase wind energy to meet 100 percent of the campus’ electricity consumption. Brown University, in neighboring Rhode Island, committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 75 percent by 2025 and to eliminating the use of fossil fuels by 2040. These campuses are highlighted in the report as the next leaders expected to join the list of top colleges and universities, as their commitments to 100 percent renewable energy are implemented.

“Students will be the driving force behind future commitments to clean, renewable energy that will lead us to a fossil fuel-free economy,” says Payne.

Across the country, Environment America Research & Policy Center and its partners at the Student PIRGs are working with students on more than 50 campuses in 15 states to transition higher education to 100 percent renewable energy.

Learn more about Environment America’s campaign for 100% renewable energy on college campuses.

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