The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga was recently honored with the ‘Innovator of the Year’ award at the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Green Power Switch Leadership Awards. This award recognizes organizations that are dedicated to renewable power and energy efficiency.

TVA, local power companies, and members of the environmental community launched the Green Power Switch initiative in 2000 as the first program of its kind in the Southeast. It allows consumers to help ensure that renewable energy from wind, solar and landfill gas is added to TVA’s power supply.

Consumers and businesses can buy Green Power Switch blocks of 150 kilowatt-hours (about 12 percent of a typical Tennessee Valley home’s monthly consumption) from their local power distributor. Each block costs an additional $4 on the consumer’s monthly power bill, and consumers can buy as many blocks as they like.

UTC is a participant in the Green Power Switch Program, purchasing 6,000 blocks of green power, representing 6,000,000 kilowatts or 13.3 percent of UTC’s annual electricity consumption in 2013.

“In the past few years, the University has taken significant steps toward environmental responsibility.  For example, the Department of Facilities Planning and Management has achieved remarkable efficiencies in energy by modifying plant operations, reducing the natural gas and water usage by 67 percent since 1998,” Lisa Darger, UTC Sustainability Coordinator, said.

According to Darger, participating in the Green Power Switch Program is just one of many initiatives the University has participated in to increase campus energy efficiency.

“In 2007, the UTC Student Government Association demonstrated its commitment to environmental sustainability by enacting a student ‘green fee’ with the explicit charge to fund green power purchases, among other sustainable initiatives,” Darger said. “Those green power purchases promoted Bretske Hall’s LEED Certification into the Silver category.  As the first LEED-certified building on campus, Bretske Hall is powered 100 percent through the Green Power Switch program.  The new library will also have all of its anticipated electric consumption through the program as well.”

More plans are in the works to further green initiatives on campus.

“Moving forward, UTC is committed to further incorporate green initiatives into facilities operations, research efforts, community partnerships, and academics.  Examples include the development of a core curriculum for a minor in sustainability; research to improve local manufacturing efficiencies; planned lighting LED-upgrades to increase energy efficiency by 50 percent; and completion of the 2014 Greenhouse Gas Inventory,” Darger said. “All of these efforts not only provide financial benefit to the University by reducing utility costs and reduces the campus carbon footprint, but proves UTC’s commitment to empower students to move forward as leaders in a sustainable future.”

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