Feature Stories

Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact, May 2017

UCSF 2016 Climate Action Plan: A Path Toward Carbon Neutrality

UCSF has a reputation for rising to challenges.  A new challenge on UCSF’s plate is charting a strategy to meet the University of California goal to be carbon neutral by 2025. Paul Franke, UCSF Senior Planner, Real Estate, Planning, & Capital Programs explained, “This is an ambitious policy. They want the whole UC system to reach carbon neutrality by 2025, scope one and scope two emissions, which are direct things like the power plant and the bus fleet.  So that’s huge.”

In its recent Climate Action Plan (CAP), an update of the Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Reduction Strategy Reduction Strategy, UCSF articulates the key green house gas (GHG) reduction strategies for reducing UCSF’s carbon footprint, the majority, which comes from energy consumption and the burning of fossil fuels for utilities. The other major contributors are commuter travel and airline travel. The table below from the new CAP summarizes key emissions categories:


A key challenge for UCSF is meeting this goal while growing. According to Franke, UCSF is sending to the regents this year about a million square foot of buildings, including a new Neurosciences building on block 33 and the Precision Cancer Medicine Building, an addition to the hospital, as well as a new child care center for 262 kids.
 “One of the things we’ve had a great deal of success on is purchasing green power.

 And hopefully we’ll be able to purchase more of that in the future,” stressed Franke.

Another big challenge for UCSF is addressing the power plant at Parnassus (PCUP), which burns natural gas and is UCSF’s single largest source of emissions.
According to the CAP, because the majority of UCSF unmitigated emissions stem from the combustion of natural gas at the PCUP, UCSF will continue to monitor the potential for retrofitting carbon capture at the facility. “UC has been making great strides with research on what’s called carbon capture technology. Right now we don’t implement it because the price is so expensive and it’s not fully developed technology, but we’re hoping that in the future we can fully implement it,” said Franke.

“I feel like we do a really amazing job at UCSF and I’m really proud of our numbers for our metrics across the entire campus.  We’re meeting our sustainability goals and our waste recycling goals.  Despite our growing so much, our energy use is actually trending down dramatically per square foot. While the goals are ambitious, the people across UCSF are doing a lot of hard work and they’re meeting them,” concluded Franke.

Specific Reduction Strategies
The GHG reduction strategies include two categories of measures: those to which UCSF is currently committed to in terms of funding and/or implementation (called “Tier 1” measures); and those that are in the planning stages (called “Tier 2” measures).  The figure below shows the changes in UCSF GHG emissions over time; the colored wedges represent the implementation of various Tier 1 and Tier 2 measures.


Tier 1 GHG Reduction Measures
Tier 1 GHG reduction measures are those currently underway at UCSF, as well as those measures that are funded or to which UCSF is currently committed.  Tier 1 GHG reduction measures are organized into two major categories of Energy and Transportation and summarized below.

Energy Measures

Strategy EN1: Improve Energy Efficiency of Existing Buildings and Operations (SEP Implementation): UCSF owns or leases space in 189 buildings throughout San Francisco, and energy consumption varies considerably by building use (among other variables, such as building age). A key strategy will be to continue to improve energy efficiency of existing buildings and operations.

Strategy EN2, Green Building Standards: These strategies focus on reducing energy use within buildings by exceeding Title 24 energy requirements by at least 20 percent (for all new buildings and major renovations except acute care facilities). All new buildings (except for laboratory and acute care facilities) will be built to a minimum standard that is equivalent to a LEED® Silver rating. Per the UC Sustainable Practices Policy, design all new UCSF laboratory buildings so as to meet Labs21 Environmental Performance Criteria (EPC).

Strategy EN3.1, Renewable Energy: On-Site Solar PV: Another key strategy is to increase the amount of solar used on site at UCSF. Specific implementing actions include to build a solar photovoltaic (PV) energy installation (750 kW) at Mission Bay Hospital, to be operational by 2020, and to implement Priority 1 Solar PV projects (as determined by UCSF engineer) over the next 20 years. Planned and financed Solar PV installations expected to be operational by 2020 represent approximately 750 kW capacity.

EN3.2, Renewable Energy—Purchasing Green Electricity: UCSF will implement the UC’s Wholesale Electricity Program to increase the supply of low-carbon electricity sources through direct access suppliers and continue, on an on-going basis, to pursue the possibility of increasing purchases of low carbon electrical power from the grid.

Strategy EN3.3, Renewable Energy—Purchasing Biogas: UCSF will purchase biogas for use at PCUP to reduce anthropogenic GHG emissions from the facility, if appropriate sources are available and approved by CARB. The University is currently examining its options in the marketplace. 

Transportation Measures

Strategy TR1, Reduce Vehicle Trips: Getting faculty, staff, and students out of their cars and reducing vehicle miles traveled (VMT) is an ongoing challenge for UCSF. Many strategies are in placed to reduce vehicle trips in the new plan, including:

• Increasing on-site amenities (such as child care, food services, banking, retail shops, laundry, fitness facilities), and limit parking for on-campus housing and staff.
• Add on-site housing for faculty and students.
• Enhance and expand existing car-share, vanpool, and carpool programs and incentives.
• Modify existing shuttle routes and implement NextBus Technology Application, which displays schedule, stop locations, and estimated time of arrival for UCSF shuttles.
• Encourage departments to allow flexible work schedules and telecommuting.
• Implement LRDP plans to realign supply chain, warehousing, and deliveries so as to streamline all parts of the process and minimize truck trips.

Strategy TR2, Expand Fleet of Clean Vehicles: UCSF currently has 43 low-emitting alternative-fuel and hybrid vehicles, including cars, shuttles, golf carts, and trucks. The UCSF shuttle fleet is currently run mainly on diesel and gasoline; however, the University has committed to purchase 15 full size electric shuttle buses to replace fossil fuel vehicles.  UCSF will continue to incentivize UCSF departments to purchase fuel efficient vehicles (hybrid, electric, CNG) by waiving the annual permit fee of $1,932.00 per vehicle and continue and expand use of low-emitting fuels and vehicles for shuttle system and across UCSF fleet of vehicles.

Closing the Gap:  Tier 2 Measures
Additional reductions beyond Tier 1 measures are needed over the planning horizon of the LRDP to meet the 2020 and 2035 GHG emission targets. The exact mix of future actions is still to be determined, but possible measures Tier 2 measures include:

• Expand or intensify existing and planned programs for reducing direct emissions associated with stationary sources owned and controlled by UCSF.
• Purchase more low-carbon biogas as a replacement for natural gas used by the PCUP.
• Intensify energy conservation efforts to exceed the reductions of electricity-related emissions currently expected from implementation of the SEP.
• Purchase a greater percentage of grid-supplied electricity from renewable, low-carbon sources.
• Invest in renewable energy projects at UCSF or other UC campuses (where available land exists).
• Purchase accredited carbon offsets that can be used to offset emissions in the UCSF emissions inventory.

Written by Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact..