University of Cincinnati

Institutional Information
  • Carbon Commitment
  • Carbon neutral by 2050
  • 80% reduction of Purchased Electricity Carbon by 2030 relative to 2010 
  • 30% reduction of Stationary Fuels Carbon by 2030 relative to 2010
  • 50% reduction of Total Carbon by 2030 relative to 2010 
  • 80% reduction of Total Carbon by 2050 relative to 2010
  • Scopes 1 and 2: -39%
  • Scope 3: -67%
  • Gross emissions: -45%
  • Net emissions: -45%

The University of Cincinnati (UC) recognizes its role as a leader in sustainable practice, research, and education and sustainability is a critical part of UC's Strategic Direction, Next Lives Here. UC was a charter signatory to the climate commitment in 2007 and has continued to report annually, update our climate action plan regularly and work toward our long-term carbon neutrality goal.

We continue to invest in efficiency improvements in our utility plants and throughout our campus buildings, many of which are now LEED certified. More than a decade ago, we borrowed over $20 million from the central utility plant (an internal loan) to implement the energy master plan, and then paid back the funds borrowed through energy savings and rebates. More recently, capital investment in new high efficiency plant production equipment combined with an extensive building monitoring and automation system, has helped us better manage and subsequently reduce our energy demand while in parallel reducing the energy required to provide electric, heating, and cooling to a growing campus student population. We continue our significant investment in renewable energy, purchasing over forty five million kilowatt hours annually of 100% wind energy through Mid American Energy Services, for all satellite and regional campus facilities (everything not powered from our central plant) and as well the utilization of renewable fuels.

UC is also focused on integrating climate and sustainability into the curriculum and making it part of the education experience for all students. This continues to be a priority for UC’s President’s Advisory Council on the Environment and Sustainability (PACES). Strategies include continuing to work with faculty to measure and increase the number of sustainability—and specifically climate-change—related courses; translating academic outcomes and theory into practice on campus and facilitating opportunities for the campus community to practice their innovative energy and climate-related solutions and ideas; and increasing participation in the Office of Sustainability's Environmental Literacy Certificate of Achievement, which was recognized in AASHEs 2020 Campus Sustainability Index as a program of note. UC has created a Sustainability Course Development Program that provides funds to faculty to enhance sustainability concepts in existing classes or create new courses that include sustainability concepts. In terms of linking this work to UC’s research enterprise, 68 of our 92 academic departments are involved in research related to sustainability.

We engage with partners on and far beyond our campus. The university is linked through faculty, staff and students to the City of Cincinnati Green Plan, serving on its steering committee. Also, in 2018 the City developed a Climate Action Plan, and UC met with them to identify areas of common interest and potential future collaboration. UC has joined the Cincinnati 2030 District—the first and one of the only to have included Healthy Building standards in its commitment—and is the member with the most square footage. By definition and practice UC works closely with many other major property owners in the area to lower, energy, water and transportation related emissions.

Looking at UC’s carbon footprint between 2011-2022, there is a dynamic (inverse) relationship between our Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions year-to-year; that is a result of an unparalleled environmental economic dispatch model used for the coordinated operation of our campus energy system with an integrated regional energy system, which consists of a regional electricity supply network and natural gas network, along with the UC electric grid or district energy “hub”.

Our energy hub contains combined heat and power production, energy storage, multiple heat sources and syncs, including natural gas boilers and energy distribution facilities. To achieve an optimized balance between operational cost and emissions using our environmental economic dispatch model in our integrated district energy system, a price-based integrated load response program is employed. UC Utilities in its daily and real time equipment commitment and dispatch optimizes not only its electric production equipment, but as well our six boilers, fifteen chillers, and thermal energy storage systems to produce steam and chilled water based on real time electric and natural gas markets in conjunction with environmental models incorporating the CO2 emissions resultant from our production sources. In the period from 2016 through 2022 using this model the University has reduced the percentage of power sourced from the grid from 58% to 16% of total usage annually, and conversely the amount of electric produced on campus has increased from 42% to 84%. The effect on overall University annual emissions is a significant reduction in CO2.

Utilities has forged relationships with campus partners such as the College of Engineering and Applied Science, Design Architecture, Art, and Planning, external entities such as the Cincinnati Metropolitan Sewer District, while broadening its efforts to reduce carbon emissions in parallel to its environmental economic dispatch model. These efforts include reduction of campus domestic water usage and wastewater discharge, the capture and reclamation of campus stormwater, alternative fuel utilization, procurement of recycled products, and building environmental audits.

Worldwide recognition for the work and accomplishments above has been received, including the following:
• 2022 AEE International Energy Manager of The Year
• 2022 AEE Region III Institutional Energy Management Award
• 2020 AEE International Institutional Energy Management Award
• 2020 AEE Region III Innovative Energy Project of the Year
• 2020 AEE Region III Energy Manager of The Year
• Midwest Sustainability Summit Innovation Award
• USEPA Rainwater Competition – Received Two Honorable Mentions
• IDEA 2020 Innovation Award
• 2021 US EPA Combined Heat & Power Certificate

GHG inventory methodological notes:
Two Regional Campuses (Blue Ash and Clermont) are not included in UC’s greenhouse gas inventory since, from a facilities operations perspective, they are managed separately. UC provides energy to several large local hospitals and medical centers from its central cogeneration plant; emissions from generating this energy are included, as is the square footage of these facilities. However, the population figures associated with the medical centers are not included in the normalization data.

UC’s FY21 inventory was completed by the same third-party consultants with whom the university has worked since it began tracking its footprint.

Utility data was provided by UC’s utilities offices based on multiple invoices.
Fleet fuel data was provided by the UC Transportation Services department, and waste tonnage data was provided by the University’s waste hauler.

In earlier years, transportation (commuting) survey data was statistically highly variable (standard deviation exceeds mean for most categories). A correction to the upper bound of the 95% confidence interval was used when survey results were extrapolated to the entire university population. The 2015-2020 transportation estimates were based off-of these early transportation survey results. A new survey was administered in the fall of 2021, and commuting profiles for 2020 (an outlier year due to COVID) and 2021 were updated based on this data.

Air and ground travel calculations were based on spending activity data.

The Sustainability Management and Analysis Platform (SIMAP) was used to complete the calculations. Global Warming Potential (GWP) values are from the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5). The Scope 2 reported are calculated using the Market-Based method. The source data and the results were all reviewed by the third-party consultants and by multiple offices within UC, including the Office of Sustainability, so it has been subject to significant QA/QC review.

Fiscal YearGross MTCDEOffsets (MTCDE)Compost (MTCDE)Non-Additional Sequestration (MTCDE)Biogenic (MT CO2)Net MTCDE