Wellesley Announces New Multiconstituency Working Group to Create Energy Plan, Pursue Carbon Neutrality

Wellesley's power plant.
October 29, 2018

On October 29, Wellesley College President Paula A. Johnson announced the launch of a multipart energy initiative that will allow Wellesley to exceed the goal for greenhouse gas emission reduction that is part of the College’s current Sustainability Plan (approved by the Board of Trustees in April 2016).

The Power4Women task force, composed of members of Wellesley’s Board of Trustees, faculty, administrators, and students, has worked for 12 months to assess the energy needs of the College and develop a plan to address the 24-year-old cogeneration plant while beginning to actualize the commitments made in the 2016 Sustainability Plan. With a focus on reducing the College’s energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, the group’s work became more urgent this summer when the cogeneration plant failed.

This month, the task force recommended significant investments to implement energy conservation measures, sharply reduce the use of natural gas and fuel oil on campus for electricity generation, and replace steam chillers with electric chillers. Based on these recommendations, the Board of Trustees has committed approximately $24 million to be spent over the next three years.

The College will make the following improvements in campus buildings and the central utility plant:

  • Allocate $6 million to improve energy efficiency in campus buildings.
  • Replace the steam chiller plant with an electric chiller plant, which will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Decommission the current natural gas electricity generators and partner with Wellesley Municipal Light and Power to provide the College with greener electricity.
  • Lower the College’s annual utility costs by constructing a “peak-shaving” power plant that will generate electricity during peak electrical-use periods (approximately 600 hours each year) and during power grid failures.
  • Accelerate discussions already underway with potential partners about procuring electricity from renewable sources, such as wind and solar.

President Johnson said the College is “committed to achieving the Sustainability Plan’s 2026 greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal by the time these measures are completed, which we project will be in 2021.” These actions will also improve the energy efficiency of Wellesley’s buildings and strengthen the resiliency of its electrical supply, while lowering the College’s annual utility costs by approximately 10 percent.

“We all share a profound responsibility to safeguard our world—and we must continue to work as a community in service of ensuring a more fully sustainable future,” President Johnson said.
“Achieving carbon neutrality is going to require careful and creative planning,” said Jay Turner, associate professor of environmental studies and member of the Power4Women task force, in response to the announcement. “These investments in the College’s power plant and buildings now have set the stage for that effort in the years ahead.”  

President Johnson also announced that the Power4Women task force will be reconstituted as E2040, a new working group of the Board of Trustees that will build on the momentum and work of Power4Women to help the College move forward from here.

E2040 will explore and recommend specific ways the College can work towards its environmental goals while upholding its educational mission, financial commitments, and other institutional priorities. The group will be charged with creating an energy master plan for Wellesley’s electrical and heating infrastructure and campus energy usage, with the goal of reducing electrical and heat consumption and transitioning campus buildings and the central boiler plant to renewable technologies that can serve as the building blocks for a carbon-neutral future.
More information on Wellesley’s commitment to sustainability can be found on the College’s sustainability page.