UCI’s award-winning energy management program has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency and the state of California. It serves as a model for other organizations worldwide, many of which have sought out UCI’s counsel while revisiting their own institution’s approach to energy management.

The campus was among the first institutions of higher education in the United States to respond to President Obama’s invitation to join the Better Buildings Challenge as an inaugural partner prior to the program’s public launch in 2011.


The U.S. Department of Energy has recognized UCI for surpassing its Better Buildings Challenge goal of improving campus energy efficiency by 20 percent by 2020. UCI is the first educational institution in the nation to meet or exceed this objective, and it did so seven years early – consuming 23 percent less energy in 2013 than in 2008, the base year for its commitment.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recognized UCI with a 2014 Climate Leadership Award for Organizational Leadership for reducing carbon pollution and addressing climate change. The award also recognizes UCI for its Smart Labs Initiative, which safely reduces energy use in new and retrofitted research laboratories by an average of 60 percent as well as the establishment of on-site renewable energy systems. UCI’s Smart Labs program received California’s highest environmental honor, the Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award, in 2013.

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Energy Programs and Projects

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Campus as a Living Laboratory for Sustainability

Adopting the ‘Campus as a Living Laboratory for Sustainability’ model, UCI students, faculty and staff work collaboratively to apply state-of-the-art solutions to sustainability challenges while demonstrating and communicating these solutions to the community. UCI’s existing energy systems are highly efficient, utilizing high performance power generation and large scale energy storage systems, but a number of collaborative research projects involving UCI’s Advanced Power and Energy Program (APEP) and UCI energy staff are investigating improved microgrid efficiency, additional energy storage opportunities, and the integration of additional renewable energy systems within the microgrid. As an example, the Step 4 Electrical Improvement Project (completed in 2016) will improve the efficiency of electrical distribution systems to the academic core.


Solar Power

UCI has installed 3.7 megawatts of solar power on campus. This includes solar power arrays installed on three parking structures that generate 3.2 megawatts of power. In addition, recently completed building projects, Continuing Education Classroom Building and Mesa Court Expansion, include rooftop solar arrays bringing the total number of rooftop solar arrays to 15.


Purchased Electricity Mix

In 2014 UC became a registered Electric Service Provider (ESP) enabling the UC system to directly manage the percentage of GHG-free energy provided in its purchased electricity supply. The Main Campus and Medical Center have direct access accounts, allowing access to UC ESP-provided electricity. ESP electricity is currently 25 percent GHG-free, greener than the current California grid mix of 20 percent. ESP electricity is projected to reach 100 percent GHG-free levels prior to 2020.

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Energy Conservation through Behavior and Best Business Practices

Since 2013 UCI has implemented a wide range of energy conservation outreach and engagement efforts for students, faculty and staff. The most visible outreach effort was the Cool Campus Challenge in the fall of 2015. The challenge between all 10 UC campuses resulted in more than 19,000 pledges towards individual energy conservation. UCI won the challenge with the most pledges of any UC campus. 

UCI has launched a Green Labs program which will provide tools for research labs to pursue sustainable practices including energy efficiency. UCI Green Labs behavioral energy conservation program will work in concert with the UCI SmartLabs energy efficiency program to jointly address laboratory energy use.

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