By: Linbda Hardesty Energy Manager Today

Portland State University has been conducing energy efficiency improvements on its campus for more than two years, paying for the improvements with a revolving fund set up at the college. But now, Portland State will receive about $18,000 in extra funds for the efficiency projects from Chevrolet in a unique funding arrangement.

Chevrolet worked with Portland-based nonprofit Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF) to verify and put a price on the carbon reductions of projects at 12 universities across the country. BEF put together transactions between Chevrolet and the colleges, including Portland State, whereby the carmaker pays the colleges for their carbon credits.

Why would Chevrolet do this?

Angus Duncan, president of the Bonneville Environmental Foundation says for Chevy, “It’s primarily a branding thing. Chevy is giving back as part of a re-positioning of its brand.” But from a bigger perspective, it’s opening the door to a whole new category of funding for energy projects.

Although the funds provided to Portland State are relatively small, Chevy is paying the 12 colleges about $5 million in total, says Duncan. The projects vary from energy efficiency retrofits to installation of renewables to other sustainability measures.

The deal is part of a comprehensive voluntary carbon reduction initiative by Chevrolet launched in 2010 with the goal to prevent up to 8 million metric tons of carbon emissions. Chevrolet is buying and retiring the carbon credits, meaning they will not be used to offset emissions related to specific Chevrolet operations or products.

Climate Neutral Business Network (CNBN), a consultancy based in Portland, was hired by Chevy to manage the program. CNBN wrote the third-party certified Verified Carbon Standard methodology, which opened the door for campuses to access new carbon market funding.

Other campuses announcing their participation in the Chevy Clean Energy Campus Campaign include: Spelman College; Boston University; Rochester Institute of Technology; University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point; and the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Chevy is buying the carbon credits from projects for different specified time frames at each university. But after that time frame, the schools will be able to take those verified credits to the open market and sell them to others, says Duncan.

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