Roosevelt University has received the city of Chicago’s Innovative Project of the Year award for thinking outside the box in establishing a green revolving loan fund from energy-efficiency proceeds, which will be dedicated to improving campus sustainability.
While funds for green projects in higher education frequently rely on student fees, Roosevelt University recently broke the mold by earmarking proceeds from its participation in ENERNOC’s Demand Response energy savings program to pay for upcoming green initiatives.
“Sometimes it takes ingenuity to come up with ways to fund sustainability projects, and we are proud to be recognized for our efforts in making every dollar count in this pursuit,” said Paul Matthews, assistant vice president of campus planning and operations at Roosevelt.
Creation of a green revolving loan fund at Roosevelt comes on the heels of a university commitment to cut energy consumption in its historic Auditorium Building by at least 20 percent over five years as a participant in the Retrofit Chicago Energy Challenge.
To achieve this goal, Roosevelt has contracted with a company called ENERNOC that has paved the way for Roosevelt to participate in the company’s Demand Response program that calls for energy reductions during peak power usage periods, thereby preserving regional power grids.
In exchange for its commitment, Roosevelt receives money back: In 2016, ENERNOC paid Roosevelt $64,000, which was used to start a special Roosevelt fund to invest in new sustainability and energy efficiency projects that the university estimates will result in $92,000 in energy savings this year. Those savings will then be put back into the fund for additional projects in the future.
“We believe the Roosevelt project is an example of a best practice that is easy to do, and is a model for other universities and building owners in Chicago,” said Joel Freeling, who works on sustainability issues with Chicago higher education institutions as project coordinator for the Alliance to Retrofit Chicago Higher Education (ARCH), of which Roosevelt is a member.
“We think Roosevelt’s green revolving loan fund will be copied by others, and will bring a national spotlight to Chicago as a city that knows how to work with higher education to improve on sustainability,” said Freeling, who nominated Roosevelt for the award.
Amy Jewel of the City Energy Project partners with the city of Chicago to develop and implement the Retrofit Chicago Energy Challenge program, and her organization is working on energy efficiency issues with Chicago and 19 additional cities across the United States. The City Energy Project is a joint initiative of the Institute for Market Transformation and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
“What’s interesting about the Roosevelt project is that it sets up the university to go beyond just one energy efficiency project, and develops a process to support continued improvement. Energy efficiency is typically not something that is done once and completed, but rather requires an approach of ongoing implementation. This is also a project that is replicable and scalable,” Jewel said. “Can others do this as well? The answer is yes. We expect other organizations like schools and hospitals to consider such a program in the near future.”
Roosevelt received the Innovative Project of the Year award on Nov. 16 during the Retrofit Chicago Energy Challenge’s 2016 Energy Efficiency Awards and Celebration.