Chevrolet Campus Clean Energy Campaign – Campus Wide Funding Opportunities

Sue Hall
AASHE supports Chevrolet’s innovative investments in clean energy efficient projects on US college campuses.

Chevrolet is now providing funding to purchase and retire carbon reductions sourced from clean energy efficiency projects on college and school campuses across the U.S – in collaboration with AASHE, the US Green Building Council (USGBC), and other stakeholders across the country. 

Chevrolet is doing this in order to help invest in and promote a clean energy future worth driving towards, not only in its vehicles but in our communities. Indeed, if innovative cars, such as the Chevrolet Volt and new Spark EV, are to realize their full potential, they will be charged by an efficient, cleaner energy infrastructure in our communities. So AASHE is now working to support Chevrolet’s innovative investments in clean energy efficient projects on US college campuses.

The funding opportunity is open to all U.S. universities and colleges. A campus determines whether its performance in reducing carbon emissions Screen Shot 2013-08-14 at 11.09.17 AMthrough their clean energy efficiency leadership will qualify based on new carbon methodologies that Chevrolet is in the process of developing through the Verified Carbon Standard. If eligible, campuses may receive funding by selling and transferring its carbon credits to Chevrolet for the purpose of retiring them to benefit the climate.

There are two avenues through which campuses can determine their eligibility to receive project funding:

  1. Individual LEED Certified Buildings [See here for details on individual LEED building funding opportunities].
  2. Campus-Wide Performance

Campuses carbon reductions can therefore be evaluated on a campus-wide basis (in stationary 1 and/or scope 2 electricity-based emissions) or determined for individual LEED certified buildings. Projects can readily determine their eligibility for campus wide project reductions based on CO2 emission profiles that have already been derived from their GHG reporting to STARS, ACUPCC or other credible programs. There are a series of new tools and resources designed to help campuses conduct this evaluation.

The value of carbon funding can significantly contribute to a campus to further accelerate its clean energy efficiency leadership, as reflected in the pilot campus projects which Chevrolet already has underway. There are simple steps involved in applying for funding, with resources available to support and streamline this process and answer frequently asked questions.

Chevrolet is also particularly interested to support and recognize the ingenuity of the next generation of clean energy efficient entrepreneurs – the students themselves – through awards and competitions. Such millennial leadership, in concert with the suite of clean energy projects Chevrolet is supporting across the country, will not only help power the next generation of cleaner electric vehicles such as the Chevrolet Volt and Spark EV: it will help us all to find new roads to create a future worth driving towards.

Chevrolet Volt charging canopy.

Chevrolet Volt charging canopy.



Here’s how to determine initial eligibility for Campus-Wide reductions. First, the new VCS methodology which Chevrolet is developing would establish a benchmark performance based upon the top 15% emission reduction performance of all 600+ ACUPCC schools, segmented by Carnegie category and emissions type (stationary 1 and scope 2 electricity). This turns out to be an annual emission reduction of about 5% per year.  Schools that fall into this category, and also have reduced annually their combined stationary 1 and scope 2 electricity-based emissions, are eligible to sell and transfer to Chevrolet those certified credits associated with any incremental emission reduction initiatives.

Investments by institutions this aggressive already are, almost by definition, additional. These schools have a demonstrated track record of pushing well beyond Business As Usual (BAU), so that these incremental projects executed by the universities represent net carbon reductions below any reasonable baseline.

The current performance benchmarks, representing annual average percent CO2 reductions, by category, comprise:

Screen Shot 2013-09-27 at 11.52.44 AM

Alongside such Performance Benchmarks for Stationary 1 (PBS) and/or Performance Benchmarks for Scope 2 Electricity (PBE) reductions, the campus must also have reduced its combined total stationary 1 and scope 2 electricity emissions on an absolute basis over the same time period as it achieved its PBS or PBE performance.

There are other eligibility criteria which campuses must also fulfill that are simply outlined in the project summaries which must be completed for consideration.  Key project eligibility criteria include:

  • Be a US-based college or university
  • Report GHG emissions to STARS, ACUPCC or another credible third party
  • Have a project start date no sooner than Q1/Q2 2011
  • Demonstrate actions on at least two energy strategies to achieve these progressive performances – which may not have been conducted as a result of regulatory requirements
  • Ensure rights of ownership to the resulting carbon reductions to avoid double counting/claiming, consistent with campus’ own GHG reporting

Using their STARS or ACUPCC data, campuses can readily estimate the total CO2 reductions that might qualify for Chevrolet funding using the Excel Templates.  Chevrolet is open to consider funding purchases over several years, spanning mid-2011 through December 2014. Chevrolet is willing to pay premium in terms of $/ton over the prevailing voluntary carbon market pricing.

Interested campuses can contact Sue Hall or Pat Nye to learn more about funding opportunities and eligibility criteria.


What’s the incentive for campuses? Carbon funding can contribute 5-25% of the incremental capital needed to deliver clean energy efficiency performances at this level of leadership. The monies are designed to reward top performing campuses and to help expand their clean energy efficiency and climate performance. Chevrolet believes that having a compelling business case will spur campus clean energy leadership.

Several pilot projects have already established such business case and have discovered their projects were well worth putting forward:

Using their STARS or ACUPCC data, campuses can readily estimate the total CO2 reductions that might qualify for Chevrolet funding using the Excel Template. Chevrolet is open to consider funding purchases over several years, spanning mid-2011 through December 2014. Chevrolet is willing to pay premium in terms of $/ton over the prevailing voluntary carbon market pricing.

Interested campuses can contact Sue Hall or Pat Nye to learn more.


Campus building with on-site solar panels.


Campus Precedents: Learning from other Campus Leaders:

Chevrolet has already funded several campus clean energy pilot projects, which have used the new methodology to secure Chevrolet’s funding to support their GHG leadership.  See below to learn more about why and how the partnerships worked:

1. The Ball State University Story

When officials at Ball State University determined that it was time to replace the University’s aging coal fired boilers, they began analyzing a number of different approaches, with a focus on environmentally responsible systems that would be true to Ball State’s tradition of innovation and sustainability.  Ultimately, the University decided to create the nation’s largest ground-source, closed-loop district geothermal energy system, which would enable the University to deliver deeper greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions against its already demanding American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) signatory goal of achieving carbon-neutrality by 2050.

While the project’s environmental advantages were obvious, there were many other positive factors associated with the project.  Virtually all of the components were manufactured in the United States; most of the contractors were based in the Midwest; and many of the contractors were located in close proximity to Ball State’s campus.  Additionally, the project helped redefine the local water-well drilling industry and propelled companies in this industry into a new and growing market.  The project also offered tremendous learning and research opportunities for Ball State’s faculty and students in areas such as geography, environmental sciences, etc.

After learning about Ball State’s proposed project, Chevrolet, which had recently announced its own corporate initiative of funding carbon reduction project across the United States with the goal of preventing up to 8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere over a 5-year period, began discussions with the University about a partnership that could help both parties achieve their goals.  These discussions ultimately led to Chevrolet and Ball State partnering in the development of a market study to be used by Chevrolet and its partners to create new carbon reduction methodologies.

A key component of the market study is Ball State’s transfer of its verified emission reductions (VERs) to Chevrolet.  When completed, the transfers will result in Chevrolet permanently retiring the VERs on behalf of the climate; in later years Ball State will bring these reductions back onto its own books when the credits are no longer sold, so that the university can deliver on its demanding carbon neutral goals.  Based on what the parties have observed to date, it appears the sale of carbon reductions will be a key way for universities to help fund their climate action plans.  As Jim Lowe, Director of Engineering, Construction and Operations, stated:

Chevrolet’s initiatives will enable universities to “pay forward” carbon reductions as a financing mechanism for implementation of their climate action plans.  Onsite photovoltaic electrical conversion of the sun’s energy, continuing improvement in demand-side reduction through building envelope modifications, improved pump/fan efficiencies, and ultimately modifications to occupant behavior can all spring from this funding support.

Robert Koester, professor of architecture and Chair of the BSU Council on the Environment (COTE), reflected on the University’s leadership with Chevrolet in pioneering the first pilot clean energy efficiency project and remarked:

The market study demonstrates that the voluntary carbon market is an ideal playing field for leveraging the support of the Chevrolet carbon credit purchasing.  Without third party financing of this type, most colleges and universities would not be able to capitalize the more significant investments needed to bring down their carbon load on the atmosphere.

The financing made available through Chevrolet can seed the creation of green revolving loan funds at colleges and universities; with such initial capitalization, colleges and universities can continue to pay forward the impact of current efficiency yields toward additional conservation and energy use reductions.  This is a virtuous circle that empowers campuses to pursue deep systems-thinking efficiencies.  It’s a great way to find new roads to travel together towards a clean energy future.

The Ball State University campus-wide project’s pro forma excel and project development templates can be reviewed alongside background insights into their pioneering geothermal installation.

Ball State University has implemented the largest geothermal energy system of its type in the United States.

Ball State University has implemented the largest geothermal energy system of its type in the United States.


2. Valencia College Case Study

As a result of its strong ACUPCC greenhouse gas reduction performance and Silver level participation in AASHE STARS, Valencia College was recommended as a pilot project for Chevrolet’s Campus Clean Energy Efficiency Campaign. Valencia College is a community college with nearly 70,000 students attending five campuses in the Orlando, Florida area. It is the only community college participating in the pilot so far.

The Chevy Climate Reduction Initiative is perfecting a methodology to have carbon reductions verified as voluntary carbon credits. As a result, colleges and universities reducing their carbon emissions beyond specified and demanding performance levels can sell these credits to buyers as carbon markets develop. Funds can then be used to further advance these schools’ clean energy efficiency, allowing them to achieve even greater beyond business as usual levels of greenhouse gas reductions. Chevrolet’s innovative program has as its overall goal the expansion of clean energy efficiency. Sue Hall of Climate Neutral Business Network is developing the voluntary carbon methodology with the Verified Carbon Standard, for the higher education clean energy efficiency sector and has worked with us closely throughout the process.

Valencia College qualifies under the new methodology on a campus-wide basis because its scope 2 electricity emissions exceed the 6.74% annual percentage reduction threshold established as the performance benchmark (comparable to the performance achieved by the top 15% of colleges reporting under the ACUPCC). This is the main qualification criterion for Associate Colleges for this methodology. This aggressive reduction in college-wide electricity consumption at Valencia has been achieved through staff energy efficiency efforts over the past 15 years and an institutional commitment to Green Building. For example, the College has recently installed a highly flexible college-wide Building Automation System, converting earlier ineffective systems to the one that is most user-friendly and reliable. Further in the last two years Valencia has added an aggressive behavioral energy efficiency (Energy Education) program. Valencia College has approached electricity demand reduction using three methods:  (1) the construction of more energy efficient buildings; (2) installation of more efficient chiller plants and controls; and (3) the development of energy efficient behavioral practices, which reduce the college’s need for energy.

Valencia College, Osceola Building 4

Valencia College, Osceola Building 4

The estimated return on incremental capital from selling carbon credits is highly positive. At the $3 per square foot incremental cost that USGBC estimates is needed to achieve high energy efficiency performance, Valencia would achieve a 7 – 14% return on incremental capital over a 10-year span at $5-10/ton pricing for project carbon reductions.

Carbon funds paid to Valencia College by Chevrolet, through its buyer agent Bonneville Environmental Foundation, must be used for additional carbon reductions. Valencia’s Office of Sustainability is working to have the funding, which will be transferred to the college over a three year period, become seed money for an entirely new Green Revolving Fund. Considerable assistance in proposing a Green Revolving Fund was provided by staff of the Sustainable Endowments Institute (SEI).

SEI’s Billion Dollar Green Challenge encourages colleges, universities, and other nonprofit institutions to invest a combined total of $1 billion dollars in self‐managed green revolving funds that finance energy efficiency improvements. Forty colleges and universities have set up Green Revolving Funds and have signed a MOU with SEI to share information as part of the Billion Dollar Green Challenge.  Working with SEI to set up a Green Revolving Fund will give us invaluable capability to ensure that there is a consistent, persistent source of funding dedicated to helping us sustain our beyond business as usual leadership level energy efficiency and GHG emission reduction performance.

Valencia College’s facility directors have in the past supported major expenditures that have contributed to energy efficiency and energy use reductions. However, setting up a Green Revolving Fund would result in accelerated energy (and associated cost) savings. As a community college, Valencia does not have separate departmental budgets like larger 4-year and research institutions. Considerations raised by the College’s Chief Financial Officer to using the Chevrolet Carbon Reduction Fund monies for a Green Revolving Fund have been that other departments would then want to have their own funds.  However, the fact that the Chevrolet Carbon Reduction Fund monies represent a special case, designated specifically for further carbon reductions, addressed this concern.

Having embraced the documentation of our college’s GHG emissions for ACUPCC and documentation of many aspects of our operations for STARS, Valencia College’s office of sustainability recognizes the importance of Lord Kelvin’s adage “If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it.”  The Chevrolet Carbon Reduction Initiative, in addition to bringing in new funding, is stimulating greater measurement and improvements in our energy operations. Valencia encourages other colleges with strong energy efficiency programs to join Chevrolet’s exciting pilot project.


What are the key steps involved in putting a project forward?

  1. Signal interest: Simply complete the questions in the “INTERESTED” download document (drawing upon information from your ACUPCC/STARS campus GHG reporting) and email this to Pat Nye.
  2. Complete initial due diligence with BEF/CNBN team members to evaluate project eligibility and performance parameters, inputting further data to the excel templates sheets. Evaluate attractiveness of project funding investment from campus’ point of view.
  3. After campus has elected to proceed, formalize an agreement to move forward for Chevrolet to purchase and retire carbon credits provided from your project, including a project payment schedule. Once eligibility is determined, Chevrolet will provide a contract in order to transact for the carbon reduction tons you wish to provide.
  4. Fully complete project information sheets found here and here and submit to Chevrolet for review.
  5. Participate in a third-party project validation review of the project’s carbon credentials and verification of its reductions in 2014-15: In order to achieve VCS certification all carbon projects are reviewed by a designated third-party reviewer
  6. Transfer carbon credits to Chevrolet and receive payment.

There are many resources available to support campuses’ evaluation and application efforts including:

  • An Excel “INTERESTED” template to provide early indications of campus projects’ interest and core qualifications
  • An Excel Template to estimate:
    a) whether a campus would qualify based on its GHG performance.
    b) the size and value of resulting CO2 reductions.
  • A Project Development Document, (PDD – with check boxes to complete that mirror the Excel Template’s results) which provides:
    a) a summary of the project for Chevrolet to consider.
    b) a summary of the project for VCS to evaluate its certification credentials.
  • The VCS methodology, which outlines all the detailed project requirements, which are themselves captured (for convenience) in the Excel Template and PDD Project Summary documents.
  • Frequently asked questions concerning the use of the templates for LEED certified buildings are included for reference.


We address two kinds of frequently asked questions here:

  1. Questions typically asked by campuses evaluating potential projects and putting them forward for funding.
  2. Questions regarding the Credible Foundations for this Approach.



Chevrolet will be announcing shortly competitions to challenge students to help us move towards a clean energy future through their own ingenuity and innovation. The first, the Chevrolet Clean Energy Entrepreneur of the Year award, will challenge students to bring forward their innovative solutions to clean energy efficiency challenges in their own lifestyles, campuses or communities. Stay tuned!

Sue Hall
CEO, Climate Neutral Business Network