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UC San Diego Gets STARS Gold Rating

In April 2021, UC San Diego earned its fourth Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) Sustainability Tracking Assessment Rating System (STARS) Gold rating in recognition of its sustainability achievements. Only 170 colleges and universities worldwide have this distinction. The STARS Report provides details about UC San Diego’s sustainability efforts across all areas, including academics and co-curricular programming for students, research, operations and on- and off-campus engagement. UC San Diego excelled in numerous credit subcategories, earning full or nearly full, points in Research, Water and Diversity & Affordability.

Research: With 18 percent of our researchers and 28 academic departments engaged in sustainability research, UC San Diego is advancing scholarship in sustainability. The university provides numerous programs and funds to support students and academic staff who are conducting sustainability research and disseminates these efforts through its open-access research eScholarship Repository, which stimulates learning and innovation.

UC San Diego is advancing its journey to carbon neutrality through in-depth applied research and collaboration with industry leaders. A variety of research initiatives and research units, including the Center for Energy Research, Sustainable Power and Energy Center, Laboratory for Energy Storage Conversion and the Deep Decarbonization Institute, are leading development of optimized distributed energy resources, energy storage and electric vehicle technology.

Over the past 20 years, UC San Diego has built one of the world’s largest, most diversified microgrids that provides 80 percent of the campus’ power demand and will now serve as the springboard for the next generation of grid integrated renewable and distributed energy resources. The DERConnect (distributed energy resources) program will include more than 2,500 devices on the campus’ microgrid, a 2.8 MW fuel cell, 3 MW of Photovoltaics, a dozen classrooms and office buildings, 300 charging stations for electric vehicles and a battery electric energy storage testing facility. The program, led by Professor Jan Kleissl, director of the Center for Energy Research, recently received a $39 million from the National Science Foundation to expand a world-class platform to decarbonize the grid, protect it from cyber security attacks and make it more resilient by retrofitting the microgrid.

UC San Diego is creating one of the largest, most diversified energy storage portfolios of any college campus with a range of research and commercialization of energy storage. Professor Shirley Meng’s Laboratory for Energy Storage and Conversion is designing and developing new functional nanomaterials and nanostructures for advanced energy storage and conversion applications. Professor Ming Liu’s laboratory is developing low-cost, long-life, and fast-charging energy-storage systems to enable a renewable energy-powered electric grid and an electric vehicle-dominated transportation system.

The campus is building the largest and most diversified electric vehicle charging infrastructure of any university worldwide. Our innovative abilities to shift, shape, shed and fine-tune electrical loads from EV charging combined with dynamic market price signals and grid conditions allows UC San Diego to support electric vehicle charging research development and demonstration opportunities. Current projects include Adaptive Load Management, Vehicle-2-Grid, PV-Energy Storage integrated DC fast chargers, ISO 15118 prototypes and conjoined DC fast chargers.

sprinklerWater: UC San Diego has demonstrated its dedication to conserving water and preserving water quality by meeting the UC-wide goal of reducing growth-adjusted potable water consumption 20 percent by 2020 and achieving the goal of reducing growth-adjusted potable water consumption 36 percent by 2025. The campus has implemented comprehensive policies, plans and guidelines that require Low-Impact Development practices for all new construction projects and adheres to a Storm Water Management Program to reduce the release of pollutants to the maximum extent possible.

Campus water consumption decreased 17 percent from the previous year due to major water reductions in all campus areas. Over the past two years, the Utilities & Sustainability team has installed and programmed over 250 water, electric, gas, child water and high-temperature water meters to transition 1,000 building-level Automatic Meter Reading meters. These AMR meters provide staff with real-time data and analysis to confirm irrigation and building performance and to address issues in a timely, cost-effective manner. In 2020 alone, the Utilities & Sustainability team identified more than 450 irregular water patterns, leading to proactive resolution of water leaks and water waste.

Diversity & Affordability: UC San Diego utilizes many resources to support the recruitment and retention of historically underserved populations and provides programs to make the campus accessible and affordable to low-income and non-traditional students. As a result, the campus has an 85 percent graduation rate for low-income students. It also strives to maintain a community free from all forms of discrimination and harassment by actively enforcing nondiscrimination policies and responding to reports of bias, harassment and discrimination by offering resources and assistance to promote a culture of inclusiveness.

UC San Diego is using STARS to identify new initiatives and areas to improve campus sustainability. It will take the collective effort of students, faculty and staff for the campus to achieve its sustainability goals. Visit the Take Action section of this website to see how you can make a difference.