Technology & Finance

What we know to date 

We know that Berkeley must decarbonize its campus energy system to meet the urgent climate, operational, and educational goals of the next decade. The university currently depends on an aging cogeneration plant powered by natural gas to provide steam for thermal needs and electricity for 90% of the campus power. This plant is a major emitter of greenhouse gases, responsible for about 140,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent every year. In response the campus has undertaken a number of studies to provide high-level technical and financial transition options. Below find what we have determined to date and see what is next as we embark in the Integrated Resource and Activation Plan underway.

Technology: electrification of the microgrid

The current campus microgrid includes the cogeneration plant providing 21 MW of electricity capacity and steam for thermal needs. About 11MW of supplemental power from the utility is required to meet demand. Seven campus owned electrical switching stations distribute utility and plant power through a double loop arrangement. This arrangement provides electrical redundancy. From more than 12 energy system options studied over the last four years, Berkeley is now focusing on electrification options for this microgrid. The clean energy system includes fuel switching to electricity, retaining electrical redundancy, providing more cooling to address growing heat days from climate change, and providing the additional energy capacity required to meet campus growth. 


Central electric heat & cooling pump plant. The campus is currently studying a campus location that could accomodate a new central electric heat pump plant supplying hot and chilled water for thermal needs. The building connections to plant facility can be phased in as design and funding becomes available. The thermal plant would be powered through utility and on-site solar with 100% clean electricity. Energy resiliency to keep the campus powered in emergencies and utility shut-downs is key to campus operations and research. A variety of resiliency solutions are being explored including on-site solar, battery, fuel cells and/or a generator farm.  Additionally, a reconfigured cogeneration facility will be evaluated as a short-term resiliency option. Gas use will be fully phased out as more on site renewables are added and the plant is fully connected to campus buildings.

Technology: more on-site renewables & water recycling

Berkeley plans to complement the clean energy system with other clean energy and resiliency technologies such as a large on-site solar PV and battery storage system on the hill campus to provide up to 30 MW of capacity. Studies are also underway to measure geothermal potential on campus, which could contribute to heat and cooling needs and reduce electrical load. The campus is also examining a new water reuse system, advanced utility controls and fuel cells.

Carbon: significant reduction in emissions 

A central electric heat pump system would all but eliminate campus building energy carbon emissions. This will reduce building energy carbon emissions to levels below the State of California's regulated Cap & Trade threshold. 

Cost: clean energy systems cost less over the lifecycle

Studies to date show that the clean energy sysems would incur higher capital costs when compared to a business-as-usual scenario or replacing the campus' gas cogeneration plant but building a 30+ year system based on fossil fuels in not an option for Berkeley. The analysis that has been performed that considers commodities (60% of operational costs), including the cost of carbon, proves that over the lifecycle the clean energy systems will cost less. 

Sather Gate & students walking

Decarbonized energy system solution strategy reduces carbon emissions and use of offsets to below CA Cap & Trade threshold

Carbon Reduction Strategy