In September 2016, Harvard University became the first university to join a group of corporate climate leaders, including Facebook, Microsoft, and Walmart, that are working together unlock the enormous opportunity for renewable energy to meet aggressive emissions reduction goals.

Harvard’s membership in the Business Renewables Center (BRC) will give it access to the latest guidance and lessons learned from purchasers of large-scale, off-site renewable energy projects. The BRC was created by the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) to help corporations address the complexity of utility-scale wind and solar energy deals. RMI is a well respected and leading independent non-profit dedicated to advancing market-based solutions to cost-effectively shift to efficiency and renewables.

“The Business Renewables Center is pleased to welcome Harvard as its newest member and an important early mover in renewable energy procurement by higher education institutions,” said Lily Donge, Principal at the Rocky Mountain Institute. “Harvard now joins the ranks of top business leaders educating the market on renewable energy.”

Harvard was an early adopter of renewable and alternative energy, testing out institutional geothermal, rooftop solar thermal and small-scale wind on its dense, urban campus. In 2009, the University entered into a long-term agreement for 12 megawatts (MW) of wind power from a project in Maine, making Harvard the largest purchaser of wind power by a college or university in New England at that time. And the University has over 1MW of installed solar PV capacity across campus. The University also assessed the potential for wind energy along the Charles River but found it was not feasible.

Harvard has also advanced research and discussion on these issues through its role as chair and member of the Green Ribbon Commission Higher Education Working Group. In 2016, this group undertook a research project to research and analyze the different types of renewable energy options available to institutional purchasers, and to give insight into how the various options differ in terms of impacts from a renewable energy capacity, greenhouse gas emissions, and financial perspective. The report also clarifies the associated claims that purchasers can make. Coming out of this process, Harvard is committed to heightened transparency around current and future renewable energy purchases.

Using criteria and a framework provided by faculty advisors, as well as its work with regional partners and peer institutions, the Harvard Office for Sustainability and Engineering & Utilities teams are currently evaluating the feasibility of utilizing large-scale, off-site wind or solar power as a strategy for both meeting University’s aggressive climate commitment and protecting Harvard’s long-term interests.