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Clean Energy

UC Commitment

In support of the climate neutrality goals, the University of California is committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by reducing energy use and switching to clean energy supplies.


  • Reduce each location's energy use intensity by an average of at least 2% annually
  • By 2025, each campus and health location will:
    • Obtain 100% clean electricity
    • Have at least 40% of natural gas combusted on-site will be biogas


  • A new chiller plant is being built as part of a Central Utilities Plant expansion to provide additional efficient, water-based cooling capacity throughout campus. The chiller plant will be powered by carbon-free electric power and will include two chillers, two cooling towers, associated pumps, piping and all required electrical distribution systems.
  • The Triton Solar Decathlon student team received $100,000 to participate in the inaugural Orange County Sustainability Decathlon, a competition for schools of architecture and engineering that challenges multidisciplinary teams to design, build and showcase innovative, net-zero energy buildings with sustainable materials and state-of-the-art technology.
  • UC San Diego was chosen as a campus representative for UC Building Performance Benchmarking Project. The objective is to develop, through assistant of third-party vendor, tracking of energy performance and greenhouse gas emissions of new construction design through operational life with additional capability to include existing building stock to compare buildings across campus locations.
  • Received $100,000 from the UC Office of the President to implement Auxiliaries Energy Efficiency Program as part of a grant from the UC Carbon Neutrality Initiative and Global Climate Leadership Council.
  • Utilities & Sustainability:
    • Hosted the first Climate & Sustainability Town Hall featuring the campus’s strategic energy plan. Another town hall addressed the campus community on the role of hydrogen in decarbonization and the research and operational developments associated with it.
    • Completed Natural Sciences Building Monitoring-Based Commissioning project. Submitted to Public Utilities Commission for review and incentive award amount. Projected annual savings are estimated to be 250,000 kwh/yr. and 7,000 MMBTU/yr. for an incentive of about $150,000.
    • Installed new energy-efficiency equipment for the chilled water system in the area around San Diego Supercomputer Center.
    • Completed Hubbs Variable Speed drive project to optimize chiller energy at reduced load.
    • Completed numerous lighting retrofits and upgrades, including Scholars Drive street lighting, and Economics Building, Sequoyah and Petersen Hall—projected to exceed the UCOP Energy Use Intensity (EUI) weather normalized goal of 2% reduction for 2021.
  • In 2021, energy use per square foot decreased by 6% from 2020. This reduction in energy intensity is like turning off lighting in a home for one year.
  • In 2021, the total energy use on the main campus decreased by about 3% from the previous year.
  • UC San Diego continues to leverage public funding to expand the campus electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Our campus has 300 ports that serve commuters, general public and travelers. Over the past four years, UC San Diego has become San Diego County’s largest multipurpose hub of EV charging plazas by delivering 2.5 GWH to more than 5,500 unique drivers.

Campus Actions

UC San Diego continues to be a leader in climate change research and education, while also aggressively pursuing actions to reduce the campus’ environmental footprint, including:

Energy Efficiency

  • Implementing a comprehensive energy efficiency program that has completed over $100 million in projects and reduced campus greenhouse gas emissions by more than 50,000 metric tons of CO2 (MTCOe2)
  • Upgrading to energy-efficient ventilation systems in high-energy-use buildings
  • Switching to LED lighting
  • Enhancing building-performance monitoring and tuning
  • Retrofitting heating and ventilation systems, controls and ductwork
  • Replacing laboratory freezers with more energy-efficient models


UC San Diego has built one of the world’s the most advanced microgrids, which is key to creating a carbon neutral campus. The microgrid provides a flexible, resilient, reliable, secure energy distribution system that is capable of generating approximately 85% of the electricity used on campus annually. Power is provided from several sources the campus’ 30-megawatt cogeneration plant, 2.8-megawatt energy fuel cell and 2.4 megawatts of solar arrays.


The campus operates a 30-megawatt natural-gas-fired combined heat and power system that provides 72% of the campus’s annual electricity needs. The Environmental Protection Agency recognized the plant with an Energy Star CHP Award for its high efficiency and low emissions. 

Cogeneration uses one fuel source (natural gas) to produce two forms of energy (electricity and heat). State-of–the-art gas turbines equipped with pollution controls are 45-50% more efficient than conventional natural gas power plants and produce 75% fewer emissions.

In addition to saving approximately $18 million in annual purchased utilities costs, cogeneration reduces:

  • Energy loss due to transmission and distribution of electricity over the statewide electrical grid
  • Reliance on out-of-state coal-burning power generation
  • Regional congestion on SDG&E’s grid system

Energy Management System

A computerized Energy Management System connects all major campus buildings and centrally monitors and controls mechanical systems — heating, ventilating and air conditioning —  based on occupancy. The programmed system reduces energy use during evenings, weekends and holidays. Precise programming reduces peak-time energy demand, maximizes conservation and allows for efficient room temperature management and long-term trending and comparative analysis.


The campus’ 2.4-megawatt solar network includes an array of rooftop, carport and ground mounted systems, including several integrated with advanced energy systems. The campus continually seeks opportunities to expand our solar infrastructure.

Fuel Cell

Our 2.8-megawatt fuel cell is the largest on any college campus. It provides about 7% of UC San Diego’s total energy needs, or the equivalent of powering 2,800 homes. The fuel cell uses methane gas to generate combustion-free electricity for the campus. In addition to electricity, a 300-ton absorption chiller captures waste heat from the fuel cell to produce chilled water that is stored in the nearby Thermal Energy Storage system.

Energy Storage

UC San Diego is a global leader in advanced battery and energy storage research and deployment. Energy storage is quickly transforming the two most important sectors of the energy economy: the power sector, which is electricity production and supply, and the transportation sector, which is how we move ourselves, goods, food and other modern necessities. Just as important, energy storage is proving to be the critical technology for removing carbon from these two essential sectors.

UC San Diego’s energy storage research portfolio spans material sciences to nanotechnology¾aimed at making the world’s most advanced batteries less expensive, more reliable, safer and longer lasting¾to real-world deployments consisting of large-scale energy storage systems operating in real-time on the UC San Diego microgrid. Examples of campus energy storage research activities and operations include:

  • Solid-state lithium battery innovation
  • Advanced lithium cathode and anode research
  • Sodium-ion and other non-lithium battery research
  • Direct recycling of lithium battery cathode and anode materials
  • Operation of 2.5 MW/5 MWh lithium iron phosphate battery system
  • Operation of 60 kW repurposed electric vehicle battery system
  • Operation of 7 million gallons of thermal energy storage capacity

Future Plans

Existing and planned programs aim to help the campus meet its carbon emission reduction goals, including:

  • Continued energy use reductions through energy efficiency retrofit projects
  • Increased grid renewable energy purchases through the UC Wholesale Power Program and future purchases of bio-methane gas to offset natural gas use

Take Action

See tips for reducing phantom load, energy use and efficient lighting, heating and cooling practices.