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.

Beginning in 2012, Chevrolet provided 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. This Campus Clean Energy Campaign is now being carried forward by Second Nature so that campuses – both those already qualified and new campuses — can take advantage of this unique new source of carbon credit financial capital that can accelerate their progress towards a clean energy future!

Chevrolet launched the Campus Clean Energy Campaign 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. Three non-profits, USGBC, AASHE and Second Nature all partnered 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 developed with the Climate Neutral Business Network and were approved through the Verified Carbon Standard. If eligible, campuses were able to receive funding by selling and transferring its carbon credits to Chevrolet for the purpose of retiring them to benefit the climate. Going forward, Second Nature is acting as campuses’ seller agent to help engage other carbon credit purchasers and thus help campuses continue to access such funding from the US voluntary carbon market.

There are two avenues through which campuses can determine their eligibility to receive carbon credit 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 campus projects which Chevrolet has already funded. There are simple steps involved in establishing whether a project would be eligible for carbon credit funding – and in seeking to sell its credits to secure these revenues – with tools and resources which Chevy originally developed still available to support and streamline this and answer frequently asked questions.

Chevrolet was also particularly interested to support and recognize the ingenuity of the next generation of clean energy efficient entrepreneurs – the students themselves – through an innovative on-line dialogue #CleanEnergyU which was repeatedly top trending on Twitter in 2015, engaging student and clean energy leaders in creative conversations towards a clean energy future. Such millennial leadership, in concert with the suite of clean energy projects Chevrolet supported 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.



Here’s how to determine initial eligibility for VCS carbon credits on a Campus-Wide basis. First, the new VCS methodology which Chevrolet developed established 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 carbon credits to interested purchasers like Chevy based upon the certified credits associated with any incremental emission reduction initiatives.

Investments by campuses 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 so long as the projects are validated by Feb 2016; otherwise project start dates could not be grandfathered
  • 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 carbon credit funding using the Excel Templates.  Chevrolet was open to consider funding purchases over several years, spanning mid-2011 through December 2014 and paid a premium in terms of $/ton over the prevailing voluntary carbon market pricing. Going forward, inquiries from campuses can be made to Second Nature to explore future funding prospects.

Interested campuses can contact Brett Pasinella 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, its participating campuses, USGBC and Second Nature believe 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 was open to consider funding purchases over several years, spanning mid-2011 through December 2014 and to pay premium in terms of $/ton over the prevailing voluntary carbon market pricing. Going forward, inquiries from campuses can be made to Second Nature to explore future funding prospects.

Interested campuses can contact Brett Pasinella to learn more.



Campus Precedents: Learning from other Campus Leaders:

Chevrolet has already funded eleven campus clean energy projects, nine of which were campus wide projects, which have used the new VCS methodology to secure Chevrolet’s funding to support their GHG leadership.  See below to learn more about why and how these 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 Chevy campus program.

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 developed 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 for carbon credit funding?

  1. Complete initial due diligence to evaluate project eligibility and performance parameters, inputting data (which draws upon information from a campus’ ACUPCC/STARS GHG reporting) to the excel template sheets. Evaluate attractiveness of project funding investment from campus’ point of view.
  2. Engage with Second Nature to explore how your campus might best sell the carbon credits provided from your project and review any technical questions you might have.
  3. Typically, carbon purchasers enter into contracts directly with a campus in order to transact for the carbon reduction tons it wishes to provide: transactions can be coordinated and supported through Second Nature.
  4. Fully complete project certification materials (the excel template, the project development document and the monitoring report) which are ultimately submitted to carbon credit validators/verifiers for VCS certification.
  5. Participate in a third-party project validation review of the project’s carbon credentials and verification of its credits in order to get them issued. In order to achieve VCS certification all carbon projects are reviewed by a designated third-party VCS reviewer. Second Nature can also supply further information regarding the VCS project certification process and steps required to get projects VCS approved and credits verified.
  6. Having secured VCS credit issuance, transfer carbon credits to purchaser (which can be facilitated through Second Nature’s registry account) and receive payment.

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

  1. An Excel Template to estimate:
    • whether a campus would qualify based on its GHG performance.
    • the size and value of resulting CO2 reductions.
  2. A Project Development Document, (PDD – with check boxes to complete that mirror the Excel Template’s results) which provides:
    • a summary of the project for VCS’s certifiers to review for validation purposes (conducted once up-front).
    • details of the project’s credentials for VCS’s accredited certifiers to evaluate in order to secure project validation.
  3. A Project Monitoring Report (MR – with check boxes to complete) which provides:
    • a summary of the project for VCS’s certifiers to review for credit verification purposes, conducted regularly throughout the project lifetime as credit issuance from VCS is sought.
    • details of the project’s credentials for VCS’s accredited certifiers to evaluate in order to secure credit issuance.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 was also delighted to support student leaders who asked to convene a virtual twitter dialogue dialogue with clean energy leaders to help us all move towards a clean energy future and empower their own ingenuity and innovation. The first #CleanEnergyU dialogue took place in November 2014 as campuses announced their Chevy project funding; expanding in 2015 for Earth Month and Campus Sustainability Month, #CleanEnergyU has to date engaged hundreds of students and clean energy leaders in collaborative dialogues, both on campus and virtually on line at #CleanEnergyU – to advance our joint efforts to bring forward innovative solutions to clean energy efficiency challenges in our own lifestyles, campuses, businesses and communities.

Top trending during Earth Day 2015 and for five days during the fall, #CleanEnergyU is an exciting, new opportunity designed to help campuses engage their students and faculty in cutting-edge clean energy dialogues to help promote a clean energy future.

#CleanEnergyU brings together clean energy leaders with students and faculty across the US to empower them to drive more effectively towards a clean energy future.   As a virtual dialogue, spanning live tweetathons and on-campus post-it board and classroom dialogues, #CleanEnergyU brings a wealth of activities to support campuses during Campus Sustainability Month in the fall and Earth Month in the springtime.

Each #CleanEnergyU dialogue focuses around two core questions: for example, in the fall of 2015, during Campus Sustainability Month, the #CleanEnergyU dialogue asked:

  1. How could campuses best lead their communities towards a clean energy future?
  2. How could you most effectively lead such change? What changemaker roles/qualities might you bring?

Students were invited to exchange ideas on campus through post-it boards and classroom dialogues– and the share their insights with #CleanEnergyU by posting selfie photos of their ideas and questions. Suggestions for how to include these activities as part of students’ Campus Sustainability Month roster were shared in the #CleanEnergyU facilitation event guide.

Clean energy leaders spanning Joel Makower (GreenBiz) to David Tulauskas (GM) and Mark Kenber (CEO Climate Group) joined dozens of other speakers for #CleanEnergyU’s third live tweetathon on October 20/21 — to engage directly with students in conversation on #CleanEnergyU.   This fast paced, creative virtual dialogue included opportunities for aspiring clean energy entrepreneurs (with leaders from PLAN and, leaders from Google, Microsoft, contributions from the Mayor of Portland and dozens of non-profit leaders, from the Green Sports Alliance to USGBC and campus networks. Speakers explored topics focused on both campus clean energy transformations in community and how to foster our leadership talents effectively to drive this change.

Anchored upon our fall core dialogue questions, also selected the most thoughtful student articles for publication on drawing upon students insights from the #CleanEnergyU dialogues and their hand-on leadership experience on campus and in their communities.

At the same time, #CleanEnergyU convened an in-person workshop during Climate Week 2015, which brought talented millennials together to meet some of the most brilliant clean energy leaders —to co-design the most effective ways to bring clean energy solutions successfully to our communities! As the only student-focused event during Climate Week 2015, this highly interactive poster-style #CleanEnergyU Kick Off event invited speakers, workshop participants and Climate Week attendees to design and prioritize the most creative solutions each believes will bring their communities and campuses towards a clean energy future.  The workshop panel discussion, which included half a dozen student leaders alongside Andrew Winston, Mark Kenber, Anastasia Schemkes and other clean energy leaders, was livestreamed and reviewed on campuses across the US.

Overall, #CleanEnergyU has now engaged dozens of campuses and clean energy leaders to become top trending on Earth Day 2015 and again this fall, amassing more than 25m social media impressions!  So explore how your campus students and faculty might best take advantage of this exciting dialogue as it continues to convene conversations to empower us towards a cleaner energy future!


Sue Hall
CEO, Climate Neutral Business Network