UH keeps track of its hot air
The University of Hawaii at Manoa has become the first Hawaii organization to take part in a volunteer effort to track its own greenhouse gas emissions and report to an independent third party.
Officials yesterday signed an agreement to become one of the "founding reporters" of the Climate Registry.
Started last year, the nonprofit registry project aims to develop an "accurate, complete, consistent and transparent greenhouse gas emissions measurement protocol" that could assist in coming up with ways to reduce emissions and their effects on the environment.
About 230 entities -- businesses, municipalities, government agencies, utility companies and others -- have agreed to measure emissions and issue detailed reports by July 1, 2009.
UH-Manoa is among a handful of schools taking part. Others include Syracuse University and Cornell University, according to the registry.
"As Hawaii's foremost institution of research and higher education, it is our responsibility to promote public awareness of the consequences of global climate change," said Kathleen Cutshaw, the university's vice chancellor for administration, finance and operations.
Greenhouse gases are emitted through the burning of fossil fuels such as oil or coal. They trap heat in the atmosphere and are widely seen as the greatest contributor to global warming.
Measuring emissions consists primarily of tracking how much energy is consumed, such as gallons of fuel or kilowatt hours of electricity, said Craig Coleman, a university graduate student in oceanography and "architect" of the tracking program.
Once the amounts are known, they are multiplied by a conversion factor that determines the amount of gases emitted.
"The thing that is being measured is the fuel quantity," Coleman said. "Science knows the conversion factor to take that quantity of fuel and convert it into a known value for the mass of greenhouse gases."
Officials said the tracking project fits in with its overall goals of reducing its energy use by 30 percent over the next four years and having 25 percent of its energy come from renewable sources, such as wind, wave, solar or geothermal power, by 2020.
Since 2003, equipment upgrades and other engineering improvements already have helped reduce energy use by 15 percent on the Manoa campus.
But the rising cost of fuel -- crude oil and gasoline prices set record highs almost daily -- are likely to drive conventional energy costs up.
David Hafner, assistant vice chancellor for campus services, said the university expects to spend about $18 million on electricity in the current fiscal year.
"The comment I make to a lot of the folks in the university is: It's a race against time," Hafner said. "The prices are rising just as fast as we're pushing the usage down, so we're going to have to look for more aggressive energy conservation."