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Going Greener

University to cut greenhouse gas emissions

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The University of Calgary is set to cut its emissions by approximately 43 per cent from 1990 levels- a move that will save up to $5 million a year once implemented in 2011.

The federal and provincial governments gave the U of C $113 million as part of its infrastructure plan Friday, May 15. Half will go to a co-generation plant and to a campus wide energy performance program- refitting buildings- while half will go to making sure the Taylor Family Digital Library will have state of the art equipment when it opens.

The heating and cooling plant would not only slash green house gas emissions by 80,000 tonnes per year, the university would switch from purchasing energy to producing it themselves, said U of C president Dr. Harvey Weingarten. The move will save the university anywhere from $3.2 to $5 million per year on their operating budget.

"The facilities that we have for heating and cooling for our buildings are 40 to 45 years old," said Weingarten. "We needed to expand and upgrade that facility and we decided to do it in an environmentally responsible way."

Co-generation means that instead of just heating or chilling water and sending it through tunnels into campus buildings, you have a natural gas run turbine- essentially a big jet engine- that produces electricity, explained Weingarten.

Office of Sustainability co-ordinator Jo Wright said the co-generation project is a "wonderful thing" and something the university has been working on for a number of years.

"It's an amazing scale of change to see for the campus," said Wright. "Kyoto commits us to six per cent below 1990 levels by 2012 where as this would give us on the order of 40 per cent by 2011."

Calgary-Montrose MLA Manmeet Singh Bhullar said the co-generation plant is an example of government and post-secondary institutions working together to find innovative solutions to the province's most pressing challenges.

"It's actually quite exciting to see how the new project, with respect to co-generation, will contribute financially to the institutions well being, as well as leave a much smaller carbon footprint once fully developed," said Bhullar.

The U of C is in the midst of a $1.5 billion capital expansion plan and developed a set of funding proposals for different levels of government to consider.

The money from the federal government is part of the economic stimulus package, which set aside $2 billion for infrastructure needs in Canada's universities and colleges, said Weingarten, noting the program requires the provincial government to match the feds.

The rest of the funding will go towards library-related projects on campus, including money for work on the High Density Library, where many of the volumes from the MacKimmie Library will be stored, and extra funding for state of the art information technology and audio visual equipment for the TFDL, said Weingarten.

Bhullar stressed the provincial government is "very excited" about the TFDL.

"It's something that will allow researchers from across the province to access [necessary resources] and really helping bridge our campus Alberta system together where people from around the province have access to the best and brightest research," said Bhullar.

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