LANCE COLLINS: My name's Lance Collins. I'm the Dean of Engineering. And I'm going to be-- I'm joined with a panel to discuss. This is a community forum to discuss the options for achieving a carbon-neutral campus by 2035, a report that was released a couple of weeks ago. The purpose here are twofold. One is we'll present a very high level summary of that report, just for the sake of bringing everyone up to speed. And then there will be a question and answer period after, with our distinguished panel, who I'll introduce in a moment.
There are going to be-- this is being live streamed. And so there will be questions from people who are not sitting in the audience that will be integrated and interleaved with the other questions. So just please be patient. You will notice that we're all wearing buttons. So this is our scary Halloween button that we're wearing, which is-- I'm wearing CO2, for example, which as you know is a greenhouse gas. And there are a number of other molecules distributed across the panel. So please, each of you maybe introduce your molecule as we go along.
So I co-chaired this committee that wrote the report with Kyu Whang, who is the Vice President for Infrastructure Properties and Planning. And Kyu is right here. To his immediate right is Sarah Brylinsky, Sustainability Communications and Integration Manager for the Campus of Sustainability Office. And then across the way is Paul Streeter. Paul is the Vice President for Budget and Planning. To his right is Todd Cowen. Todd is a professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Kathy Dwyer Marble and Curt Marble Faculty Director for Energy within the David R. Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future. And then to his right is Bob Howarth, the David R. Atkinson and Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. And to his right is Jeffrey Bergfalk, who is a doctoral candidate in mathematics.
So we're representing a larger committee. There are a number of other people. But this is a good cross-section of people to help me with answering questions that I can't actually answer. That's a joke. OK, let me begin by reading a statement that was written by Mike Kotlikoff. This was in the Cornell Daily Sun. "Meeting our goal by 2035 will require creativity and investment. The report will help inform our decisions in the context of Cornell's need to advance its academic mission, which is to offer an excellent, cost effective education for students while creating knowledge that advances society and serves the citizens of New York State and the world. Working to eliminate our carbon footprint will advance these goals." Powerful words, and I italicized some of them in order to make a point-- "in the context of Cornell's need to advance its academic mission."
One of the challenges with the project is that we would like to achieve this incredible goal, a really ambitious goal, but without somehow compromising other aspects of what we do at Cornell. We are multi-dimensional. We are educating undergraduate students, master students, PhD students. We have lots of programming that is going on. And we want to achieve this amazing goal without compromising that other programming. And so in some sense, this is more of a balancing act than something that can just be we just shoot the gun off and we're going to run. But I think that this report documents a pathway forward. And I'm going to try to present that as I go along.
So we are committed to this. There has been a longstanding commitment to achieving this. It's considered to be one of the important goals for the campus because it allows us to show leadership and, in some ways, a pathway forward, not only for Cornell but for other places on the planet, to achieve carbon neutrality. So I think we take that very seriously. We've embraced it for a long period of time. And there are a number of assemblies that have passed proclamations and resolutions that we're all supportive of us in this very, very substantial goal.
So one of the first things that came out was a climate action plan that was published originally in 2009-- it was updated in 2013-- which had a number of goals, one of which being Cornell achieving carbon neutrality. These are the major milestones. There was a point in which former President Skorton, then as part of a challenge that he was dealing with, with respect to a resolution from the faculty senate, then said that the university would achieve carbon neutrality, but in a shorter period of time.
Originally the goal was 2050. But then it was revised to 2035. He then commissioned another committee to look at how to achieve that goal. That was a very ambitious goal. And so the Acceleration Working Group then worked for a number of months and published, roughly in the June time frame of 2014, a report on how the university could accelerate its path to that goal and what would be the immediate things that would need to be done in order to put us on that pathway.
Now we fast forward to just a few months ago, in March of 2016. Provost Kotlikoff charged the group, the Senior Leaders Climate Action Group, with not only looking at one pathway, but multiple pathways-- options to achieving carbon neutrality. His feeling was that we didn't want to be locked in on one approach, because what if that one approach is unsuccessful? We didn't have any sort of a plan B. So the idea here was to give a number of options that would allow us to achieve this remarkable goal and, depending upon how things play out, we would then be able to either go with our original plans or revise plans, as we go along.
And that's what led to the report that we're discussing, this "Options for Achieving Carbon Neutrality by 2035." It's not really a plan of action in the sense that we're not saying that one should do this. But in fact, we are presenting options, and that those options ultimately will be under review by the provost. And then decisions will be made, and in fact have been made, in terms of how to initially proceed.
OK how is this report different than the previous ones? One is we've updated the financial analysis. And so there's been a fair amount of work done to improve, and in fact refine, the analysis, the costs associated with it. And there is a table that I'll be presenting later, which talks to that. In addition, we introduced some new concepts. One is the social cost of carbon. And so at the moment, as you're pouring carbon dioxide, for example, into the atmosphere, there is not really-- there's no cost associated with doing that. But there, in fact, is-- there's no explicit cost. So you're not paying anything when you do it. There's no carbon tax, etc.
On the other hand, there's an implicit cost. Because in fact, we are changing the climate. And as we change the climate, there are costs that are associated with that. So if, for example, there are more severe storms, insurance rates will go up as a consequence of that. Or it could affect farming in different regions of the country, and so forth. And those effects actually do have a real, tangible financial cost. We estimate that cost-- and there is an appendix, which discusses this in more detail-- at $58 per metric ton of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. And by no means am I the economics expert behind that estimate. But that is the standing estimate within the report.
We also introduced the so-called quadruple bottom line. We often think about the bottom line is the financial bottom line. But in this case, what we're saying is that there are ultimately multiple bottom lines that need to be taken into consideration as we're making decisions. And we introduce these as for Ps. So they are-- let's see if I can remember-- people, prosperity, purpose--
KYU WHANG: Planet.
LANCE COLLINS: --and planet, thank you. And so we should be thinking about how decisions that we make affect all four of these bottom lines. And I'll be saying more about that later in the talk.
And then finally, we introduce an estimate that is often overlooked-- namely, that if we are using a source of energy like natural gas, that natural gas was-- there are upstream processing that brings that natural gas to the power plant. That processing can leak some of that natural gas. And it turns out that methane is also a greenhouse gas-- in fact, a very potent one, a more potent than carbon dioxide. And so if one begins to take into consideration the leakage that happened all upstream of your actual usage of the methane, you then get an even larger impact, if you like, of your process on the environment. And we introduce that in the analysis.
So here is a sizing of Cornell's carbon footprint. And you can see, there are a number of categories that we place it in. The first, this 179,000 equivalent metric tons of carbon dioxide, is associated with all the energy we produce and all the energy we purchase from the grid. Then there is transportation. And this includes all of the transportation, the commuter traffic into and out of Cornell, as well as travel that we all undertake to go on airplanes, to go to different places, estimated at another 62,000 metric tons. And if we add those together, you get to this number of 241,000 equivalent metric tons of carbon dioxide.
Now there is a reduction that you see there, that's associated with management of forests and so forth. Again, I'm not the expert. But we get a reduction as a consequence of that, of minus almost 28,000. And so the total equivalent with that reduction is this 213,650 metric tons. That's on an annual basis. And you can see that on the right I'm showing a pie chart, which shows the percent of this associated with the production of power on the campus, the production of electricity, and the transportation that I just described. So that's the breakdown. And it's a sizable, considerable amount. And the goal, if we're going to get to what we're hoping to achieve, is to drive this to zero. So that's what we're trying to do.
Now if we take into consideration what I just described, the upstream leakage of methane on both the original fracking to obtain it-- because our source of methane is coming out of Pennsylvania, so it's fracked gas-- as well as the plumbing to get the gas to the power system, you get, in addition to what I just described, the yellow circle that's shown here. And the number-- it may be hard to read-- is 580,0000 additional equivalent metric tons of CO2.
So it's not directly that. But it's the equivalent of methane that's been leaked into the atmosphere. It's the equivalent of CO2 due to the methane that's been leaked into the atmosphere. So when I add that to the number I just described, it in fact is considerably larger than the number that I just described. And again, the goal is to drive this to zero. And so that's essentially the challenge-- a definition statement of the challenge that we're trying to achieve.
So this is a hard thing. And so let me say a little bit about what are some of the challenges. And let me say a little bit about what are some of the benefits. So number one, we are a Research One institution. And we are not in Palo Alto, California. We here in Ithaca, New York-- making fun of another institution out there. So we need to heat and power a campus that is power hungry. Because we are a Research One institution. And we don't want to compromise on that. We want to continue to be an outstanding research place. That means there's a huge number of laboratories. And laboratories require a lot of energy.
A second challenge is that in the current climate-- and this is nationwide. This is not just Cornell-- in the current climate, with the price of gas as cheap as it is, there's really no financial motivation to create these renewable projects. And so it really is a-- it's a very difficult environment to justify renewable projects, based on a return on investment.
And then the third thing is that a major consumption of energy are just the place where we are right now-- the buildings on campus, the building stock, which of course, as you know, varies widely, and has to be ultimately brought up to very high performance buildings in the course of us getting to where we believe we need to go. And so there are two ways of achieving this goal. One is we reduce the demand. And we've already done enormous things, as far as that's concerned, in terms of every time we do a renovation, we have a more efficient outcome than we started with. But it's expensive.
And again, we would need to have the finances to be able to do that across the entire building stock of the campus-- not an easy thing. But there are benefits as well. And one of them is that we believe Cornell can be a leader in terms of finding a pathway forward for achieving carbon neutrality, not just for Cornell, but for other communities as well, that we're demonstrating a pathway forward. And we think that's important.
The second thing is that while the price of gas today is cheap, we can't always count on that. The markets are fickle. They can change rapidly. In addition, there could be new policies and new charges associated with carbon that could completely change today's economics into a very different form. And this, in some ways, hedges against that. Third, we're demonstrating a whole new technology, which we believe could become a new industry that may grow out of upstate New York. And wouldn't that be exciting, in terms of creating jobs and so forth? And finally, we think there is a real fundraising opportunity. And in fact, that's a major element of this, if we're to be successful.
So at this point, I step away and Kyu, you take over.
KYU WHANG: So as Lance mentioned, this report is really a collection of options that we developed to reach our goal. And Lance talked a lot about the carbon footprint of our campus, where the benchmark is to start this process. But I'm going to talk a little bit about the demand side of carbon neutrality. So any time you talk about neutrality, you have the supply side. And we talked a lot about renewable and things like that-- alternative energy-- but also demand. We have to lower our demand as much as possible on campus so that our goal becomes a lot easier to achieve.
So one of the things that Lance had already mentioned-- this is high-performance buildings. We have a lot of buildings on campus. In fact, our buildings are probably the largest users of energy, more than anything else-- more than transportation or anything. So this is a big nut for us to crack. And so some of the things that we have been working on-- for many years now, for several years, the university has continued to invest in energy conservation. And energy conservation has been a good thing. Because we have a graph that we're not going to show today. But our campus grew by about 1.5 million square feet over the last 10 years.
And yet our energy consumption stayed flat. And the only reason why we were able to achieve that is because of energy conservation. Our buildings are becoming more efficient. We are using less energy per building than we were 10, 15 years ago. So that's really a positive story. But we need to continue that. We can't just say, well, we've done enough. So we're not going to anymore. So we're actually proposing that we continue to invest in energy conservation. So for instance, if we invest another $50 million over the next 10 years in energy conservation projects, that would yield a savings of about $3.4 million a year. And if you take out the debt service costs for that $50 million, if you subtract that, you are netting about $400,000 a years in savings.
We also have this thing called conservation maintenance where we have control techs going around campus and tuning up HVAC controls. Now every one of these high tech buildings has a very sophisticated set of controls that consumes a lot of energy. And so it's kind of like your car. Unless you tune up your car on a regular basis, your car is not going to be as efficient as it can be. And that usually means a lot more energy use than you really have to. So by investing an additional million dollars or so in conservation maintenance yields about $1.3 million a year in savings.
We talked about transportation. So it's not just about heating buildings and cooling buildings. We have a car, we have a fleet. And Cornell actually has a fleet of about 700 vehicles on campus. And we have about another 9,000 cars that commutes in and out of campus daily. So that's a lot of carbon that is being emitted into the atmosphere for people to travel, to get to work, or travel to meetings, or travel to New York City. So one of the recommendations in the report is to increase electric vehicle capacity. And we are proposing-- one of the things that we're proposing is to expend about a $1.5 up front to install charging stations, a real simple thing. These things don't really cost a lot of money. But actually, installing charging stations-- so we're estimating about 250 charging stations. Generally speaking, one charging station can be shared by two vehicles. So that could really address about 500 vehicles of electric cars that we could support on campus in the future.
It's also by community engagement. It's not just about what we can do from an engineering perspective, but what can we do from a behavioral perspective? So one of the programs that I know Sarah-- and both Sarahs have been very much involved in-- is this thing called Think Big, Live Green. It's a project to engage and educate students, faculty, staff, in the collective role and opportunities for innovation, research, and improvement to reduce energy use. And such a program could yield tremendous savings in energy savings. So you can see an example here. By investing another $50,000 annually in the Think Big, Live Green Initiative could yield roughly half a million dollars in savings, or 1% savings energy reduction per year.
We also have a drive to improve campus climate literacy. And this is really to make sure that everyone on campus-- faculty, staff, and students-- are aware of what's going on, aware of the need to conserve and to save energy as much as possible. And we're proposing roughly $100,000 a year, plus 1 FTE, to work towards putting together websites, and models, and examples that we can show campus that they can do and to learn about reducing energy demand.
So in conclusion, so these are some of the things that we can work on immediately. These are not the big things that Lance is going to get into next that cost millions and millions of dollars. These are the little things that we can all start doing right now. So further utilizing Think Big, Leave Green campaign to educate and engage campus community, enhancing campus literacy. The next one-- this is one that's near and dear to my heart, capital projects.
Improve the capital-- modify the capital approval projects to incorporate the quadruple bottom line that Lance has referred to. We should factor into our quadruple bottom lines-- it should not just be about what is the least first cost. And we need to really factor that into our planning process. Expand the energy conservation initiative. Continuous recommissioning program to further drive down energy use through increased investment in both and extending the payback period required for energy conservation projects.
So right now we have a threshold to meet on energy conservation projects. If we don't have a return on investment that's under 10 years, we don't do the project. I think we need to go beyond that. We need to go beyond that, and have actually more projects that we can do, that we can work on annually. And of course, the last part is prioritizing development of infrastructure to support a campus fleet of clean fuel vehicles and replacing the existing fleet accordingly.
So with that, I'm going to yield this back to Lance.
LANCE COLLINS: Thanks, Kyu. So there is the immediate. And then there's the future. And so the solutions for tomorrow are really focused on how to produce the energy without producing carbon. And so, as Kyu said, this is the longer-term challenge, because of the price tag and the amount of technology development that's involved.
The report goes through a number of scenarios. And I'm not going through all of the scenarios. The one I'm going to focus on are the solutions that take care of both the heating and the electric power for the campus. And there are six of them. The first one we call Earth-source heat, combined with wind, water, solar, and biomass for peak loads. Here we're talking about essentially enhanced geothermal energy to heat the campus, wind, water, and solar to provide electric power for the campus, and biomass combustion to take care of peak loads when the temperatures are cold enough that the geothermal system is not sufficient.
Number two is Earth-source heat combined with wind, water, solar. So we size the Earth-source heat system sufficiently to cover all conditions. Third, ground-source heat pumps combined with wind, water, and solar. And let me define, because it might be a little bit confusing. When we talk about Earth-source heat, we're talking about drilling very deep, such that when we circulate water down, the temperature of the water coming up is high enough to directly heat the campus. So it's direct use of geothermal energy.
When we talk about a ground-source heat pump, a heat pump would require electric energy as an input as well. It's essentially an air conditioner turned backwards. So you're using the warm side of the air conditioner. You're pulling heat out of the ground and using it to heat the room. So this is the kind of heat-- I'm sorry, geothermal that you often hear of in people's homes. So that's what we mean. But the concept is to expand that across the whole campus.
Four, air-source heat pumps. So this would be similar, but instead of pulling the air out of the ground-- I'm sorry, pulling the energy out of the ground, you're pulling it out of the air-- but again, using a heat pump. Five, nuclear, which is using nuclear energy, which, again, is a carbon-free source of energy. And six-- six is a baseline for us. So we call it business as usual, where we're purchasing offsets to compensate for the carbon that we're putting up in the atmosphere. So it's in some sense not really solving the problem.
But nevertheless, the costing associated with that provides a baseline against which we can compare the other solutions. This is a very complicated diagram. So bear with me. And I don't have a pointer. So I'm just going to try to walk you through it. So if you start at the top of the table, there's a 42. These are all in millions of dollars. These are annual costs, millions of dollars per year. That's the cost that we are currently-- that in 2016 dollars we are paying-- that we would be paying, over the next 20 years, to heat the campus. So we're already spending a significant amount of money.
So it's not that we're going from 0 to this. We're already spending a significant amount of money, the $42 million. And then you'll see, if you just look down the left-hand side, there are the six different solutions that I just mentioned. The very first column is the capital costs associated with each of those projects. The next one is essentially saying if I take a 30 year mortgage, what are the annualized costs associated with paying those capital costs? The next one is the operating costs.
So we are actually operating a system. So we have to pay annually to operate the system. The next one is the offsets that we would have to pay, associated with any carbon that we continue to release into the atmosphere. And you'll see that the first five solutions, because they are completely eradicating the carbon use, there are no costs associated with that. And then the annual equivalent cost is the sum then of both the capital costs and the operating costs.
To the immediate right, we are accounting for the methane leakage, which, again, for the first five solutions doesn't matter, because we've eradicated that. And finally, on the very far right is our quadruple bottom line analysis, where we're looking at is this impacting the purpose, broad educational mission, of the university? Prosperity-- so what we traditionally call the financial bottom line. The people-- so are we doing something for the society that is positive? And then the planet-- of course, are we taking care of the climate? And the color scheme is such that if it's green, good. Yellow, not as good. Red, we're not really addressing. And you can see the color schemes as we go down.
So I want to talk a little bit about Earth-source heat. Because that, in fact, ultimately is the recommendation we make in the report. So why do we do that? It has a lot of interesting elements to it. One is that it really fits the mission of the institution in that it will be a combination of the research arm of the university with the facilities arm of the university, coming together to implement a spectacular project that we believe could be demonstrating a new industry.
It will have lots of spin off on the educational front, lots of opportunities for students to do master's, and PhD, and even undergraduate projects. And that's already happened, even as we are just initiating some of the thinking around that particular project. It comes in two forms. And you can see the capital costs are fairly close-- not exactly the same-- one at $700 million, the other at $730 million. And so we would have to figure out which of those two.
But we're excited about it because it has both an academic component and an interesting industrial component. That industrial component is extremely important. Because part of what we think we can do is not have to fund it all with our own resources, but in fact attract resources that would come out of private industry, that would come out of foundations, that would come out of the state government, and that would come out of the federal government. They are going to be interested in investing in this.
Because the private industry, for example, will be interested in the possibility of a new industry. So they're going to want to be at the table. They're going to want to understand the technology in order to be able to deploy it themselves. We've had conversations with some companies that have already shown the interest, the appetite is there, which is quite interesting. I'll just mention two-- Department of Energy, which is at the federal level, has just announced-- there's a letter of intent to create a program in what they call direct-use geothermal, which is precisely the project that we're talking about. And that announcement just came out about a week ago. And we're already mobilizing ourselves to be prepared for it. So we think, from a financial perspective and from an educational perspective, it is the front runner.
Now if it were to come to pass that we're not successful in making that happen, the very next most likely technology would be the ground-source heat pumps. They're considerably more expensive. But it's a reliable, off-the-shelf technology. It would be less inventive than Earth-source heat. But it would do the job. And so we consider that to be the backup plan.
One thing to note is the operating costs. So in that complex-- so this is showing it in graphical form. As you look at-- so Earth-source heat is the one all the way at the top. And the numbers are a little bit hard to read at the bottom. But it's a little over $20 million a year to operate Earth-source heat, whereas, as I mentioned, the baseline was $42 million, not considering the carbon. And then if we paid for the carbon offsets, the blue lines show what that cost would be, taking into consideration the CO2 that we put into the atmosphere. And the orange line, that's shown above, is taking into consideration the leaked methane. As I mentioned, there is this additional source of carbon in the atmosphere due to upstream leakage. If we take that into consideration, you can see the costs become quite large.
So what is interesting to note in this is that not only is Earth-source interesting from an educational perspective, from the possibility of creating a new industry, but it also just has a lower operating cost. So over time, it effectively would pay for itself. And this is not taking into consideration any fluctuations in the cost of gas, which is another possibility. We have very cheap gas at the moment, because there's a glut due to over fracking done in the state of Pennsylvania, and not enough pipelines to move that gas around. So we've been getting it at a very discounted price. If that were to go away, or if there were some other thing to come into play, like a carbon tax, the operational costs that we're talking about at the bottom, at the business as usual, could be considerably higher. So just bear in mind, there is actually a single bottom line benefit.
OK, so our conclusions from the future, the renewable energy-- strive to meet or offset 100% of the expected annual campus electricity demands through wind, water, and solar projects. Number two, pursue Earth-source heat as the primary way forward for achieving a carbon-free source of energy to heat the campus. And then number three, if Earth-source heat is not found to be viable within five years-- so we see this as a gated process, where we are going to take this thing in stages.
So stage one would be, let's say, preparatory work, design work. Stage two would be drilled one hole. So we would learn an enormous amount about the nature of the rock underneath us, the temperature gradient, how far down do we have to go, et cetera. We've been gathering data from existing oil wells, old oil wells, to gain some understanding. But ultimately, in order to really implement technology, you have to drill where you are, in order to know what's underneath you.
So drilling that first hole would tell us something. And then we would then be able to assess that. And that would give us two things-- one, feasibility. Will it work? Two, cost-- we would get a much more accurate cost estimate at that point. Three would be to deploy, let's say, a pilot scale, maybe heating 20% of the campus, and then ultimately, then, full-scale implementation. So we're going to do it in stages. And if at any point a stage doesn't work out, we would look at the plan B. So that's the thinking as we were to move forward.
And then the fourth bullet just says, we should continue to renew options all along the line. Because we're talking about 20 years. And we don't know where we'll be in 20 years, what new technologies may be coming along that we haven't even thought of. And so constantly there should be a constant update and rethinking of the plan in light of technologies that are coming around.
OK, those are the formal remarks. And I think at this point we will take questions. And I think for the time being I'm comfortable just standing here. And the panel is available, as I said, to answer the really tough questions. So show of hands, then, if you have a question. Yes?
AUDIENCE: You mentioned new revenue streams from external fundraising. Is this coordinated with the development office to see if there's alumni interest?
LANCE COLLINS: The answer is yes. But let me-- it's not going to be the primary source. So we're not thinking philanthropy will drive this. The dollar figures are enormous. And it's almost unrealistic to say we're going to, through philanthropy alone. Philanthropy will play a pretty big role early on. Because I think there is a lot more risk. So as we go along, risk will be going down in time. Companies will be more interested in coming in with de-risked technology.
So as the technology risks are going down, their interest will go up. And so we imagine a trade off happening. In the long run, honestly, we may not own this power plant. Because at some point, some company may say, you know what? You've shown me enough. I want build it myself so that I can develop the technology and deploy it in other locations. And there are lots of places, particularly in the Northeast, where this can be done. So I don't really think-- I think philanthropy plays only a small role. Yes?
AUDIENCE: Well I just might suggest-- we know that part of what we're doing here has an academic mission. And engaging students is, in itself, a value. I would suggest engaging our-- at least our recent alumni, but maybe all our alumni. They're still being educated. They're still participating. And that's a value beyond the dollars that we should consider.
LANCE COLLINS: Yeah, we'll do it, we'll do it. Yes? So let's see, one and then two, OK?
AUDIENCE: It seems to me this is a really ambitious and complicated goal. And the whole world is struggling [INAUDIBLE]. It's not just like campus parking or anything. And there's other options to consider now-- worth considering now. Is there a framework or context for more people to be engaged in this?
LANCE COLLINS: So I was going to point this out at the end. But we've put up two different sites here, so climateaction.cornell.edu and earthsource.cornell.edu, which are places where you can provide commentary on either the report, your ideas around other alternatives, et cetera. And our committee is going to continue to-- is still working. And we'll take your suggestions to heart. And we'll get back to you then, in terms of those. Yes?
AUDIENCE: I'm wondering how Cornell is considering its investments, and specifically those in the fossil fuel industry, that is contributing to a lot of the pollution that we're trying to mitigate, and whether that will be a part of the plan in the foreseeable future-- devestment?
LANCE COLLINS: I am looking to my panelist to my right, Paul.
PAUL STREETER: So your question is are we looking at our fossil fuel usage currently, as we think about this plan? I just want to make sure I've got your question.
AUDIENCE: I'm wondering how our investment, so the endowment investment, in the industries that promote unsustainable energy-- if that will be a part of this plan in the foreseeable future?
PAUL STREETER: Yeah, I couldn't[-- I don't think so in the foreseeable future. I would think over time, yes. But I think right now they're two separate conversations. So in the immediate future, no I don't see it. I would think in over time, though, it would become a part of it-- as technologies evolve, and opportunities evolve, that it would naturally become a part of it. But at the moment, I don't think so.
LANCE COLLINS: Are there others on the panel that wanted to comment, or no?
BOB HOWARTH: Well we didn't, really as a group, discuss divestment. We stuck with how to reach carbon neutrality and the issues behind that. Many of us have personal opinions. But it did not seem like divestment was going to move forward through this venue. And I think the committee did a remarkable job of coming up with a strong carbon neutrality plan. So I think that's a real accomplishment.
LANCE COLLINS: Question. Yes?
AUDIENCE: I actually have a rather technical question. The methane leakage is a big cost driver in this. And we're fortunate to have Bob here, who has led the world in understanding the role of methane. But I was just curious how it's being accounted for here. Given the fact that methane has a short lifetime in the atmosphere as compared to CO2, I would think that a metric ton of CO2 being emitted has a societally greater cost than the amount of methane that has the greenhouse equivalent of a metric ton of CO2. And was that taken into account-- the lifetime of methane versus lifetime of CO2 in the estimates that you put forward?
BOB HOWARTH: Yes and no. The estimates which are there are based on a 20-year time period of comparison. Historically, most government agencies have used a 100-year time period. So this is a departure from that. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in their 2013 synthesis report, which is the most recent report, said that the 100-year time period's completely arbitrary and you should choose a time period based on your point of interest. I put out a paper a little bit over a year ago arguing strongly for the 20-year period.
And my reasons at the time were that carbon dioxide and methane are fundamentally different gases. Carbon dioxide, when we put it in the atmosphere, will be with us for a millennium. And therefore, you've got to really worry about that. But if you reduce carbon dioxide emissions, now there are lags in the climate system and the planet will continue to warm, with no change whatsoever, for 30, 35 years-- something like that. Over that time period, we will hit 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial baseline and blow through it.
And there are severe risks associated with that, in terms of thresholds in the climate system and all. If we reduce methane emissions, the climate responds immediately to it. So yeah, It's only there for 12 years, but it responds quickly. They're apples and oranges. We've got to deal with both. And in the reporting, we're showing both. You see both. You'll see the CO2. You see the methane. You should consider both. I will add that just in the last few weeks, Jim Hansen, formerly of NASA, has come out with a new paper. And he says that climate models have not adequately considered methane in the past. And he says that virtually all of the unprecedented warming that we've seen in the last decade-- this year is scheduled to be the warmest for a long time. Last year was the warmest before that.
They modeled that and showed that that's due to methane emissions. And we are on target right now to blow throw a 1.5 degree target in about six years, given current methane emissions. And I think that the best evidence is that that's coming largely from natural gas increases at this point. So in our report, it doesn't focus just on methane or just on CO2. Right through the economics, we show both.
LANCE COLLINS: And I have a naive question, but methane, I assume over time, is oxidizing to CO2.
BOB HOWARTH: Yeah, it oxidizes to CO2.
LANCE COLLINS: And so eventually--
BOB HOWARTH: When it's in the atmosphere, including its indirect effects, it's a little bit over 100 times more powerful as a heat absorber. So once it goes to CO2, it's trivial.
LANCE COLLINS: Right. Sorry, Chris, did you have a follow up? Did you follow up? Oh, I'm sorry. OK, yes.
AUDIENCE: I have a question about the third bullet point there, which is if Earth-source heat is not found to be viable within five years. As a technological skeptic, who hopes that that works out, I'm wondering why wait five years to start planning, in case it doesn't work out? That's how I read that. If that's not what that means-- because right below you're continuing to review other renewable options as technical and costly. Feasibility's changed-- so why not get a head start on planning for the possibility that the deeper sourced heat wouldn't work?
LANCE COLLINS: Kyu, I'll let you-- because I think it's a-- well, let me say this. I think it's off the shelf. So I don't think there is as much in the way of deep planning. But I think that it would be-- in some sense, I don't think there's quite the lead time required to do that planning.
AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] the words that bother me are "review options." It seems like very--
LANCE COLLINS: Yeah.
KYU WHANG: Well, the review option-- you're talking about the last bullet?
LANCE COLLINS: Third bullet.
AUDIENCE: Third bullet.
KYU WHANG: The third-- OK, "review options for utilizing--"
LANCE COLLINS: Second phrase.
AUDIENCE: And you're going to wait five years, and if it doesn't work, then you're going to start the process of reviewing options, which I'm guessing you're not [INAUDIBLE].
KYU WHANG: So ground-source heat pump is a fairly commonly used technology today. In fact, there are several university campuses that are already utilizing ground-source heat pumps. I know Ball State is one of them, Stanford certainly. So I think it can be deployed fairly quickly. It doesn't require the years of research that we would need to do, like Earth-source heat would be. And then the infrastructure that we would have to build on campus to heat the campus using Earth-source heat versus a ground-source heat pump are very different.
So you can't really do both. You really have to do one or the other. And we believe that Earth-source heat could work. And we're going to do everything we can to make it work. And that's the reason why the delay. And I don't believe that waiting five years will make us not hit the deadline of 2035. I believe it can still be done, even with a five-year delay. But the ground-source heat pump technology is improving all the time. And between now and then, there will be new ground-sourced heat pump technology that can be utilized. So I think we can fairly quickly deploy other options, if we got to it.
SARAH BRYLINSKY: Lance, can I add to that?
LANCE COLLINS: Yeah.
SARAH BRYLINSKY: I think the other important point about this report is that it doesn't just focus on solutions for tomorrow, that the first section of this report, in addition to those tools for how we evaluate carbon, is to say that there are these three sets of solutions that we need to invest in today. So Kyu talked at length about our transportation system solutions and energy conservation. And that third party, engagement-- both the Think Big, Live Green-- what we do on campus, how we make sure people have the tools and resources that they need to act as sustainably as possible, but also that climate literacy component, that certainly every student, but every member of the Cornell community, should have a fundamental understanding of why we are pursuing climate neutrality, the importance and the urgency of climate change.
Those are things that we already invest in as a campus and that we have as a result of the climate action plan that we've had since 2009. So those things don't go away. This report builds on that existing plan of action. And the investments that we make in engagement, literacy, awareness-- these actionable, tangible solutions that the community itself has to move towards-- we'll continue to do that. And this report really underlines that that has to be a critical part of our investment, immediately.
So in the next five years, I would hope that that literacy component part of campus climate literacy is certainly awareness of climate change within the classroom, or making sure every student graduates with an understanding of how climate change relates to the work that they'll do in the world, but also literacy in the sense of having an ongoing campus conversation about what are the best technologies? How can we best pursue climate solutions as a campus? How can we find actionable areas and items within our climate action plan, or in addition to them, every day on campus? It's great in this report that we've underlined all of the hard work that this community has done to date to really make education a central driving force of why climate neutrality works here.
LANCE COLLINS: Yes?
AUDIENCE: Could you tell us a little bit about how power will be acquired from renewable sources? Given the real problems that have occurred with the very small, modest wind farm in Enfield, are we going to purchase the solar power from Arizona and get credit for it? Or are we going to-- where's it going to come from? And how are we going to acquire it? Kyu or someone [INAUDIBLE].
LANCE COLLINS: Do you want me to answer this?
KYU WHANG: We already have two solar farms up and operating currently. We have several more that we hope to bring online soon. We are still working on the Enfield wind farm. And I am still hopeful that that wind farm will come to fruition. There's a lot of permitting issues I know they are dealing with. But we're going to continue to look at various options, including hydro and more wind. Our goal is to keep these things local-- as local as possible-- understanding that we may run out of options locally. Or we may have to look further down the road. But that is really our goal, is to keep things local here.
AUDIENCE: So are you going to do the calculation kilowatt hour for kilowatt hour? Or are you also going to deal with the fact that the wind doesn't blow all the time, et cetera, et cetera? Are you going rely on the grid for [INAUDIBLE]?
KYU WHANG: Right, so any developer who doesn't feel that he or she can make a profit on this isn't going to get into the business. So we hope that-- Connecticut Hill is one of the windiest location in the area. And we've done modeling-- wind modeling and all that. And we're fairly confident that there's enough wind there to sustain the power that we can purchase from this facility. So we're going to continue to look at various options.
A lot of different universities and entities are doing very creative things in other parts of the world. And we can learn from them, as well. It's not just us leading the world. There are other great universities out there doing a lot of different things. And we can all learn from each other. And that's the hope here. It's not just about us teaching them. It's also about us learning from others.
LANCE COLLINS: Todd, I'm going to-- I just want to make a comment. Then I'll turn it over to you. I actually see this-- rather than lamenting the challenge, I see it as part of the learning laboratory, living laboratory, in the sense that this is real life. And getting permits, et cetera, is part of deploying utility-grade technologies. So I'm very hopeful that we succeed on lots of levels. It will be the most instrumented wind farm in the world. One of the things that we're requiring is that we have access.
And so we will be able to get a lot of data. A lot of wind farms do not share their data. So this would be data that would be available, and shared, that would be useful, not only for us, but for others who are developing it. So it has lots of upside. But this is just part of life. And I actually think, in some sense, rather than seeing the challenge as a thing that's negative, it's see it as this is just part of doing business in the world of utilities. This is just what it takes. That's my only comment. And I know Toddy, you were going to--
TODD COWEN: Yeah, I'm going to just pick up on what you were saying-- essentially the same thing. I'm going to take it a little broader. So one, your question Tim, we will not do it kilowatt per kilowatt, most likely. So we will still remain grid connected. We'll balance overall in an average sense and continue to use the grid as our backup. And of course, the state has gone to a 50 by 30 plan. So the pressure on the state to think about these questions is very high, as well, which will help to change the environment.
And of course, through our land grant mission, we're very engaged with the state, and really beyond, as we've talked about ourselves as the land grant university of the world-- so trying to take some of this and figure out how do you do it abroad, both from Tompkins County and in the country. But to that point, of the focuses of today's conversation has been technology. But this is only part of the solution. And in fact, the questions we've been talking about here are really the people side. And we have a campus that is incredibly engaged on the people questions. That needs to be part of this solution as well.
It is not the engineers in the facilities department that are going to get us to carbon neutrality. I would actually argue it's going to be CALS, Arts and Sciences, the law school, the business college. They're going to figure out how to deal with the most challenging problems, which are people. And so the ability to put up some of these projects locally, and study NIMBYism, and understand why do people want solutions but not in my backyard, is an incredibly powerful opportunity. And we have faculty at Cornell that are very interested in that question. And so then we can export that understanding to different locations, as well.
So I think, as Lance says, this is actually one of the most exciting parts of the problem. It requires us to think holistically and integratively across every unit of campus on how we do this. The Lab of Ornithology is a unique space in so many ways in that it understands how to do citizen science, engage the public around areas that are often thought about as the leading negative impacts of renewable projects.
LANCE COLLINS: Great point. Yeah, Larry. I saw your name in the--
AUDIENCE: Yeah, I have a question on the heat pump backup. And I guess you need to get your electrical power from a zero-carbon source. But is there plans to size the wind farms and the solar panels to accommodate the extra heating and that [INAUDIBLE] that option?
LANCE COLLINS: Yeah, so part of the-- so it's a little more expensive. Part of that is associated with producing the power that would then be used to heat the campus. So that was taken into consideration in that design, yeah. Yes?
AUDIENCE: Sorry, [INAUDIBLE] three questions. So one, administrative, the second, education outreach oriented, and the third, technical. So you said that this is an engagement session and not an action plan, per se, for now. What has the provost agreed on for now and what is still technically up in the air, depending on who the next president is of our university [INAUDIBLE]? The second is outreach oriented. So engagement is important.
But I'm a little bit-- what's actually the engagement plan of how are we engaging the student body, and also even just potential undergrads? I think a lot times the conversation around climate change is very doomsdayish. And then if we can frame our university in a way like oh, hey, come here. Cornell is doing something. Climate change isn't an unsolvable-- I'm pretty sure undergrads would be pretty-- high schoolers would want to know how they can solve climate change. And this would be a place to go when they can-- and it wouldn't just be from engineering. It would be for all the schools, right?
And I was wondering if there was any-- is admissions going to frame Cornell under a 2035 umbrella? And the third, technical-- I'm in the sustainability science. And engineering came in and talked about the possibility of having water storage tanks to store energy in the summer from geothermal, and then using that to heat the campus during the winter, so that you wouldn't necessarily need as much biomass. Is that going to be an option?
LANCE COLLINS: So let me start with the administrative one. So we have-- there is a committee that the provost chairs, that we presented essentially the Earth-source heat solution to that committee. And they have given a conditional approval, subject to us having the funding. So right now I'm in the process of fundraising to initiate the very first phase. The very first phase is really a preparatory phase to do the siting, to figure out where we would place this power plant, to do the community outreach. Let us not lose sight of the fact that this is a complex, new technology that we're deploying. And we need to make sure that the community is supportive and that the permits are going to be able to come forward. It's also going to look at designing the system, at least at a baseline level.
So the answer is that that is the front runner. And that is the technology we're looking at. But at the moment, the funding doesn't exist. So we're in the process of trying to build the fund to initiate phase one. And that's how this thing's going to go. It's going to be like that peg solution, where each time you get one thing to happen, it allows you to reach a little bit higher on the next one. So it's going to move in that-- I'm sorry, I'm going to try to finish through the questions.
The second question had to do with students and whether Cornell is a really great place to be. So the answer is yes. And I'm wondering if maybe Sarah-- yeah, Sarah, why don't you take that?
SARAH BRYLINSKY: Happy to. Great question. I do think that there's more we could do to make sustainability and climate literacy a truly integral part of the cultural experience for students at Cornell. And this report is a new opportunity, alongside all of our existing climate action plans, to really elevate awareness, but also to really start this conversation with all of this new information about what does it really mean for your unit, your department, your student club, your residence hall to integrate sustainability and climate more fully, given that we have some real legs behind what a trajectory will look like.
So this report is a really exciting new opportunity to think about how we really embed cultural sustainability into the framework of how we talk about our values as an institution even more fully. I think that's something we've done. The success of the existing Think Big, Live Green programs, and really just the success of staff across campus, in their units, in all roles, as well as faculty, and students, and teaching staff, in integrating sustainability where they're passionate is really a tremendous part of our story as a campus already. But a deeper, more substantial, more connected understanding of why the importance of pursuing climate neutrality or pursuing sustainability behavior change is a driving value of the institute I think has to be more deeply embedded into what I heard you ask-- things like orientation, or even the prospective student experience-- that we can really be proud along that fourth bottom line of purpose, of how the campus is pursuing purpose in our climate neutrality efforts, as a way that we see academic excellence and research excellence as an institution.
As a prospective student for college, I would have found that to be a very interesting. I would have loved to hear, on one of my campus tours, that a campus was pursuing this living laboratory ethos, a really holistic, hands on learning, teaching, and living experience. As this report starts us down this path, as we generate new ways of talking about that, actualizing it, understanding what those real values to the institute are, and our academic reputation, our cultural values, we do have to create a deep, lasting plan that integrates that into all the cultural conversations we have about what it means to be a Cornellian, right from the very start of your experience here as a staff or student person.
LANCE COLLINS: Jeff, I was going to-- I didn't know if you had any other comments about it from a student perspective.
JEFFREY BERGFALK: Yeah, so to-- whoa. So it's interesting. So I'm a fifth-year PhD student. I'm on my way out-- knock on wood. So I feel I've been part of this conversation for several years. And I would feel that what SLAG is-- Senior Climate-- whatever, SLAG, this thing-- is a part of a much longer history, a much longer process. And I would give a lot of credit to [INAUDIBLE] now, for example, students-- and I see a lot of faces from this process. I would give a lot of credit to everyone who has pushed Cornell to lead on climate issues.
And the collaboration that this has been is in many ways on a new scale, and is the kind of collaboration that we need to see in the face of climate change. But one thing that I want to say, as maybe an older student to younger students, is this is something that you should support. There are going to be engagement opportunities. But the particular prerogative and role of students is to push for better, to continue to push for more. This is one outcome of that. But it's not the end of that. So I would just say, continue to ask for more.
LANCE COLLINS: So the final question was a technical one that I do not know how to answer. And that's storing the energy using storage, water storage and so forth. And I don't know if Todd I'm looking at, or Bob--
TODD COWEN: We already use-- so lake-source cooling has a thermal storage tank that works the opposite the way it would for this process, where we actually store cool water to be able to peak. Burt's actually here. I think there's been some conversation about peaking with heat, a small storage system. I have not heard much conversation about trying to somehow use summer heat, which sounded to me like you were talking about actually direct use of insulation, sunlight, to heat, rather than-- are you talking pumping heat in the summer, when you don't need it from the ground, to store for peaking in the winter?
AUDIENCE: The second.
TODD COWEN: Second, OK. So there is some conversation around potentially peaking. We haven't looked carefully at that, I don't believe.
LANCE COLLINS: You're referring to the fourth bullet at the bottom. And we can continue looking.
TODD COWEN: Right. It's a part of the conversation, but not formally looked at yet, I would say.
LANCE COLLINS: OK, great. Yes?
AUDIENCE: Just one comment and one question. One is that the trustees run the spigot on this, right? And it seems to me, as a former insulation contractor, I look around at the buildings on campus. These are single-glazed windows. Obviously this falls into the 10-year payback period. Now you've got buildings that are going to be here for hundreds of years, assuming this university exists. So we need to get the trustees on board. And I'd have to say, if I had a $6 billion endowment sitting in my pocket, I would say $700 million would be something I could find money to get this process started. And then we'll figure out where to get money to help out, as we go.
But I think that the trustees have an obligation to step forward and really lead on this. The technical question I have is on the lake-source cooling. And this may be a stupid comment. But right now you have all this piping taking water out of the lake. And there's been a lot of concern about thermal pollution in the community of the lake. Is there some technology, or potential technology, that could actually reverse that process, like the heat pump, and get heat out, turn the cooling into a heating?
LANCE COLLINS: That one I actually know who to answer. That's Todd's. But Toddy, why don't we-- well let's take them in order. OK, so you were mentioned-- yes, the board of trustees are essentially the boss. They run the place. And so any changes that we make to process would have to ultimately be approved by them. The thinking we have is along the lines of what you were saying, that we have a short term payback period. And sometimes with major capital costs it might take longer to have that recovery. And I think that's something we would like to formalize in the way that we go about making decisions in capital projects.
So we don't want it to just be a one off, that well, let's think about Earth-source heat as being different. But in some sense, we want to think about everything, everything we do, in the light of this broader perspective on different bottom lines and so forth. It's something that we'll need to propose. But ultimately, we don't make the decision on it. The board would be the ones that would have to ratify those changes. But that thinking-- and just so you know, when we do do-- like I'm doing Upson Hall on the engineering quide-- we're going to be better off than what you're describing in terms of the energy improvements.
And so we are hitting higher bars with each one of these projects. But we want to make this a process that in some sense guarantees that outcome, instead of having it be a little bit of an arbitrary selection by whoever's running the particular project. We want to, in some sense, ensure that all of the renovations and all of the new buildings are built at a higher level, so that we have high performance buildings when we're finished.
The second piece, which is the lake-source cooling, Todd is one of the leaders in terms of understanding the impact on the lake. And I just thought I'd let you take that question.
TODD COWEN: Sure. So I heard two questions, one that there's thermal pollution and two, could we run it backwards? So on the thermal pollution question, strictly speaking you're correct. We discharge heat, obviously, to the lake. But to give you a sense of how much we discharge, it's equivalent to four hours, five hours of sunshine extra per year. So in the walk of the thermal budget of the lake, that's tiny.
To put it in another way, in fact we just delivered today a new analysis to the Department of Environmental Conservation, as part of the permitting process, on the surface of the lake, if you look at the-- with and without lake-source cooling-- you cannot detect a 3 degree change in the surface water. If you go to mid-lake depth, you can find a 25 square meter box that has a 3 degree change. And if we go to the bottom of the lake, it is now a little bit bigger. It's on this 100 meter scale. So it's a very small region that's impacted above three degrees. And to my knowledge, there's been no report of that thermal effect doing anything to the ecosystem. There's been other conversations about nutrients, which also have been shown to have very minimal impact. But again, it's not zero. So you're right, there are certainly impacts. But they are pretty small.
LANCE COLLINS: And it's monitored, right?
TODD COWEN: And it's monitored, yeah.
LANCE COLLINS: OK.
TODD COWEN: But running it backwards-- that question has actually come up before, and in theory is possible. Of course, because you're right. It is, like Lance said, where you can run an air conditioner backwards that's an air pump and heat your house. You could lake-source cooling backwards and we could heat campus. The challenge is that the opportunity is not nearly as great as you would think. Because the intake sits in 4 degree C water-- 39 degrees.
So the available reservoir of heat that you're tapping is so low, it would take a lot of electricity to get that up to building heat temperature. So it's quite inefficient, probably less inefficient than air-source heat pumps, which we've shown are less efficient than ground-source heat pumps. So it turns out to be-- it is an option. It would be the third best of the heat pump options. So it's really not on the table right now.
LANCE COLLINS: Bob?
BOB HOWARTH: Just an add on that too-- our heating load for this campus is far, far larger than our cooling load. So if you think about running in reverse as the major source of heat, you're talking about a much larger effort.
LANCE COLLINS: I'm going to take one more question. You've got it.
AUDIENCE: Yeah, so given the relative-- with the emphasis on Earth-source heating, are we comfortable with the idea of one, the maintenance of such an emerging technology and two, the seismic activity and its relation to that kind of stuff?
BOB HOWARTH: You can take that one.
LANCE COLLINS: So that's a fantastically insightful question. I'm very impressed. So it turns out that one of the leading people in terms of induced seismicity is in our Earth and Atmospheric Sciences department. So the geologists at Cornell reside in engineering, which is really unusual, and are central to this entire activity, since the subsurface technology is the challenging technology. You are correct that when you pump water into the ground you have the potential of inducing seismicity, which is to say earthquakes, as a consequence of that. It's one of the challenges.
There are ways to mitigate that. One is you avoid faultlines. If you pump directly on a fault line, you can really do some amazing things. And Oklahoma is the poster child of that. And she actually-- so Katie Keranen, who's that expert, came out of Oklahoma, and wrote about that a couple of years ago, before people really appreciated that that was happening. The oil industry was quite upset with her. But nevertheless, I think she's been proven to be right. Oklahoma has more earthquakes than California right now.
This will not be the case for a couple of reasons. One, we can place where we drill, relative to the fault lines, carefully to minimize the effect. And two, they're really re-injecting essentially wastewater, at huge, huge volumes. What we would be doing is circulating a closed loop system of water-- so considerably less volume than one does when you're thinking about the wastewater re-injection in a fracking operation.
And so I think that the likelihood-- and also where we're located-- the likelihood is that it would not be as severe as it was found further west. But it will not be zero either. I think it is a part of the risk equation that we need to take into consideration. The good news is that we have deep expertise right here at Cornell to help us to understand it and to minimize it. So it's really a great question. I can't remember-- was there a second part?
TODD COWEN: Well I'll just add one more piece two it, maybe in the fluid mechanics translation. So the volume aspect means that also it operates at much lower pressures. And so a lot of the induced seismicity that's occurred has been A, as Lance says, because it's been at a fault. And b, because they're trying to put these high volumes, into spots that don't necessarily want to take it, it takes tremendous pressure. And that pressure really changes the state of pressure along those faults. And that's what's triggering earthquakes.
So here the goal would be to actually have enough porosity that you're pushing that volume of water, a smaller volume, through a porous media. It will take just enough pressure to do that and no more. And so the goal is to keep that pressure quite low, very low relative to any of the other injection technologies that we talk about.
LANCE COLLINS: I'm going to call it here. So one, I want to thank you all for your attention. I want to remind you about these two sites here, the climateaction.cornell.edu and the earthsourceheat.cornell.edu. In case you had questions that you weren't able to ask or any comments that you want to provide to the committee, I encourage you to do so. Thank you for your attention.
We've received your request
You will be notified by email when the transcript and captions are available. The process may take up to 5 business days. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about this request.
In March 2016, Provost Michael Kotlikoff charged the Senior Leaders Climate Action Group to analyze viable energy alternatives for the Ithaca campus to achieve carbon neutrality by 2035. The
report was released on Oct. 4, and is the subject of this forum for faculty, staff and students to discuss the group's findings and review next steps.