Campus & Community

Summers announces new funds to ‘green’ campus

4 min read

Renewable energy, green building funds show Harvard’s commitment

In an effort to make Harvard the nation’s top university purchaser of renewable energy, Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers announced a new renewable energy fund to promote the development of renewable energy on campus.

To support schools and departments in the efforts to reduce energy costs and more than offset the extra cost of renewable energy, Summers has also announced the establishment of a new Green Building Loan Fund.

The two announcements follow through on a group of sustainability principles Summers announced last fall. “Our support for renewable energy and green buildings affirms the University’s commitment to developing and maintaining a campus that is beautiful, functional, and founded on sustainable principles. I look forward to continued conversations with students, faculty, and staff about how best to advance our work on this important front,” said Summers.

Specifically, Summers announced a three-year dedicated renewable energy fund for the University. The $100,000-a-year fund will be used to expand Harvard’s renewable energy portfolio, which is likely to take Harvard from being the second- to being the first-largest university purchaser of renewable energy in the country. The fund will bring a new focus to a wide array of renewable energy commitments that have been made by numerous Schools and departments across Harvard.

“Investing in renewable energy is a significant demonstration of responsible leadership,” said John D. Spengler, Akira Yamaguchi Professor of Environmental Health and Human Habitation in the Harvard School of Public Health. “By promoting cleaner energy sources, health-damaging and environmentally damaging pollutants from coal-fired power plants will be reduced.”

A Renewable Energy Advisory Group, consisting of student leaders, facilities staff, and others will be established to advise the Harvard Green Campus Initiative on how best to allocate the fund going forward. The first activity to be undertaken by this group will be to review all renewable energy purchasing opportunities available to Harvard and to make the best possible decision for investments in this coming year.

“As a leading institution, Harvard University is in a prime position to stimulate the market for renewable energy,” said Henry Lee, the Jaidah Family Director of the Environment and Natural Resources Program, Kennedy School of Government.

In the medium term, the Renewable Energy Advisory Group will be charged with establishing a range of business models for accessing and funding a growing renewable energy portfolio for Harvard University.

“Students across Harvard are eagerly looking forward to working with the administration on this initiative. By reducing Harvard’s energy bill and by making sound investments in renewable energy, Harvard can move towards a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions without compromising the bottom line,” said Alexander Pasternack ’05, member of the undergraduate Environmental Action Committee and Crimson editor.

To help bolster efforts to reduce utility consumption, Summers has also announced the establishment of a new Green Building Loan Fund. This fund will provide a financial incentive for the inclusion of high-performance building design and technologies in new buildings, and building renovations. The new $3 million revolving loan fund will work alongside the existing Green Campus Loan Fund, which has financed more than 42 conservation projects in existing buildings, generating an average return on investment of 34 percent (

“The existing Green Campus Loan Fund has been highly successful for upgrading existing buildings only. The new Green Building Loan Fund will now open the way to replicating this great success in the building renovation and new construction process, which is where we see enormous opportunities,” said Leith Sharp, director of the Harvard Green Campus Initiative.

The Green Building Loan Fund will be available to fund the cost difference between standard and high-performance building design and technologies. Funds can be accessed by project proponents, are interest free, and must be repaid according to the rate at which savings are generated from the project. “Far too often, organizations fail to make wise long-term decisions due to short-term pressures to meet budget constraints,” said Max H. Bazerman, Jesse Isidor Straus Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School. “The Green Building Loan Fund is a fantastic University strategy to encourage specific units of the University to make wise long-term decisions that meet shorter-term constraints, while helping to contribute to making the world a better place.”

Where appropriate, the new Green Building Loan Fund will allow capital budget managers and the operating budget managers to come together in locating a source of funding to cover the project cost difference of high-performance capital projects that will result in reduced operating costs. This approach will pave the way for the inclusion of more high-performance strategies such as geothermal heat pumps, high-performing building insulation and envelope design, building mechanical systems, high-efficiency fume hoods, storm water retention and irrigation systems, and more.