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UCLA Creates $15 Million Self-Replenishing Sustainability Fund

UCLA has announced the creation of a $15 million self-replenishing fund to support campus sustainability projects — the largest fund of its kind in the United States.

The university says creating the UCLA Energy and Sustainability Revolving Fund is a way to acknowledge that sustainability is a way to help minimize climate change, as well as a good financial investment. The fund will be created through bond financing and will not use tuition or student fees, UCLA says. Supporters will also be able to donate to the fund to support sustainability at the university.

UCLA has already invested $20 million in energy-efficient building retrofits over the past five years. It is the 46th institution in the country to join the Billion Dollar Green Challenge, which encourages colleges and universities to create their own sustainability-focused revolving funds — pools of money that are continually replenished when loan recipients return some or all of their cost savings each year.

With UCLA’s $15 million, the nationwide total for the Billion Dollar Green Challenge now has reached more than $100 million. Other members include the University of Vermont ($13 million), Harvard University ($12 million), Caltech ($8 million) and Princeton University ($5 million).

The challenge was created by the Sustainable Endowments Institute in 2011. Membership in the challenge gives universities access to the Green Revolving Investment Tracking System, or GRITS, which helps them calculate the money, energy, water and other resources they’re saving, and to a database of projects from other institutions. Participants also receive consulting support, share best practices, and get guidance for setting up their revolving funds and finding other funding sources, said Mark Orlowski, executive director of the Sustainable Endowments Institute.

In September, the University of California announced it will allocate $1 billion over five years for direct investments in solutions to climate change. In addition, as part of UC President Janet Napolitano’s goal of bringing university operations to carbon neutrality by 2025, the 10-campus university system signed agreements to secure substantial solar energy for the next 25 years. The agreements with Frontier Renewables, a company that develops photovoltaic solar power projects, include the use of two solar fields to be constructed in Fresno County, California. The project will enable the university system to put 206,000 megawatt-hours per year of solar energy back into California’s electrical grid — enough to power 30,000 homes and avoid more than 88,000 metric tons of carbon annually.

In other university sustainability news, earlier this week Portland State University announced it will sell Chevrolet carbon credits for two-and-a-half years' worth of energy-efficiency projects totaling 1,500 tons of avoided carbon emissions, as part of a move to raise funds for further campus sustainability projects. The deal is the latest component of a comprehensive, voluntary carbon-reduction initiative by Chevrolet launched in 2010, with the goal of preventing up to 8 million metric tons of carbon emissions from entering the earth’s atmosphere by investing in community-based carbon reduction projects across the country.


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