Energy & Emissions

Energy and Emissions are a critical segment of UVA’s sustainability commitment. Each year, UVA students, staff and faculty seek to reduce energy consumption and emissions while maintaining a healthy growth rate for the University. The University aims to meet an aggressive sustainability goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 25% of 2009 levels by the year 2025 through the reduction of fossil fuel, electricity, and cooling energy use.



Electricity is provided by Dominion Virginia Power, via three electric substations on Grounds. Electricity consumption represents the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions at UVA, accounting for 55% of the University’s carbon emissions in 2013.

University Electricity Use in Fiscal Year 2014:

Over 157 million kWh in electricity was avoided this past year (Fiscal Year 2014) thereby resulting in significant environmental benefits. For greenhouse gas alone, this value represents more than 89,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCDE) emissions that were avoided.

On–site Generation

Heating Plants: Heating plants at UVA generate steam and hot water, distributed through networks of underground distribution piping to most facilities on Grounds, using natural gas, oil, and coal. The five dual-fuel boilers feature state-of-the-art pollution controls that keep the heat plant in compliance with environmental regulations. The heat plant team works daily to improve the efficiency of the plants and minimize pollution.

Chiller Plants: Cooling for most University buildings, including the Medical Center, is provided by chilled water from the many chiller plants around Grounds. The chiller plant systems, for cooling, consist of central plants that generate chilled water, underground piping to distribute the chilled water and cooling systems throughout the University that utilize the chilled water. The district, or centralized, approach to chilled water delivery significantly improves energy efficiency and cooling reliability. Recent chiller projects have resulted in significant reductions in energy use.

Utilities: These utilities, including water, sewer, and stormwater, are maintained through 150 miles of underground systems. Electricity, heating, cooling, and water consumption in buildings are metered throughout Grounds, and over 200 buildings have building automation systems in place.

UVA’s energy and emissions goals

  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions 25% below 2009 levels by 2025.
  • Reduce reactive nitrogen footprint 25% below 2010 levels by 2025.
  • Reduce building energy use intensity 20% below 2010 by 2020 (Better Buildings Challenge).

In total, 86% of our GHG emissions come from electricity (55%) used for heating, cooling, lighting, equipment and similar applications and fossil fuels (31%) used for heating. The third largest source of emissions comes from commuting to and from Grounds, followed by transportation on Grounds. Despite an increase in space that added more than 32,000 MTCDE since the 2009 emissions baseline, UVA reduced its carbon emissions by 6% from this baseline in 2014.

In FY 2014-15, energy-related activities yielded more than $4.6 million in avoided costs and almost 14,000 tons of avoided greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) as calculated in terms of metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents (MTCDE). Since FY 2007-08, conservation activities at the University have presented over $22 million in avoided utility costs.


In FY 2014-15, energy-related activities yielded more than $4.6 million in avoided costs and almost 14,000 tons of avoided greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) as calculated in terms of metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents (MTCDE). Since FY 2007-08, conservation activities at the University have presented over $22 million in avoided utility costs.

Avoided Energy Use (MMBTU) Avoided GHG Emissions (MTCDE) Avoided Cost ($)
Delta Force 207,067 12,205 $4,353,796
Lighting Projects 4,090 671 $97,310
Other Efficiency Projects 8,514 877 $198,291
FY15 Total 219,671 13,753 $4,649,397

Delta Force Projects »

Lighting projects such as relamping Clemons Library resulted in a reduction of electrical usage by 88,759 kilowatt hours in fiscal year 2014, resulting in a savings of $7,358. A similar relamping project in Alderman Library reduced its electrical consumption by 328,791 kilowatt hours, for a $27,256 savings.

A current project in the works is the relamping of Lambeth Apartments scheduled for August of 2015 which has an estimated electric use reduction of 36,251 kilowatt hours for a projected savings of $3,687 for fiscal year 2015. Following this project will be Hereford Residential College where changing lights in the buildings’ common areas will conserve about 54,396 kilowatt hours of electricity and save a projected $4,400.

Other efficiency projects in the past year (2014) included projects such as steam trap station replacement and adding thermal blankets onto boilers. The replacement of steam trap stations during the annual heat plant outage yielded energy savings and enhanced safety. The addition of thermal blankets onto boilers produced reduced energy costs due to decreased heat loss off the boilers.

To learn more about UVA’s real-time and historic energy use, visit the UVA Building Performance Energy and Water Tracker.

Energy & Water Tracker »


As part of the University’s goal in reducing fossil fuels, various sustainable sources of energy are being considered and implemented. The Leake II Building currently under construction will have solar pv (photovoltaic) panels on it directly providing electricity to the building and reducing the building’s energy consumption impact. Additionally, the addition of solar pv arrays to Ruffner Hall and the University Bookstore is in the works as well.


Energy Working Group

The Energy Working Group, of the Environmental Stewardship Subcommittee, invites students, faculty, and staff to work together in planning and executing energy saving initiatives on Grounds. Learn more »

Energize UVA! and the Dorm Energy Race is held each October, a month-long initiative to increase awareness of energy conservation.

2014 Results »

Energize! Charlottesville

The City of Charlottesville is competing for the Georgetown Energy Prize. Energize!Charlottesville is a two-year campaign devoted to saving energy as a community in hopes of winning the Georgetown University Energy Prize competition’s $5 million grand prize. The stipulations for the prize money ensure that the winnings go back into the community to be used for additional energy-saving initiatives. Of the over 8,000 eligible communities, Charlottesville has advanced, along with 49 other communities, to the semifinals stage. Since 58% of residents in the City of Charlottesville live in rental properties, mobilizing property managers and owners could significantly boost Charlottesville’s chance of winning. Learn more »

Energy Center »



Some energy and emissions-related courses at UVA include:

  • Introduction to Sustainable Energy Systems
  • Climate Change: Science, Markets, and Policy
  • Global Ethics & Climate Change
  • Global Climate Variability
  • Current Topics: Air Quality, Environmental Economics, Solar Car, Electric Vehicle Design, Energy Performance Workshop, Sustainable Energy Systems
  • Introduction to Environmental Engineering, Green Engineering
  • An Inconvenient Truce: Climate, You, and CO2, Resources and the Environment, Planning for Climate Change, Energy on this World and Elsewhere.

Learn more »


Faculty members at UVA conduct innovative research to solve societies most pressing energy and climate problems. Below is a small selection of professors whose research has received wide spread recognition.

  • Deborah Lawrence: An Environmental Sciences faculty member, Lawrence studies the links between climate change and tropical deforestation, and has extensive experience in researching and discussing these issues both locally and globally. Learn more »
  • Kamin Whitehouse: A Computer Science faculty member, Whitehouse studies energy efficient smart buildings, including learning thermostats, improved water heating, and non-intrusive occupant tracking.
  • Andres Clarens: A Civil and Environmental Engineering faculty member, Clarens and his research group seek to engineer solutions focused on sustainable energy systems and carbon dioxide emissions.
  • Hossein Haj-Hariri: A Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering faculty member, Haj-Hariri’s research group studies Efficient Thermal Management. His group works on a broad set of problems associated with fluid dynamics and applied mathematics. The common thread is physics-based and non-ad hoc modeling. Areas of recent studies include: stability; wave propagation; non-Newtonian fluid mechanics; drop dynamics; surface-tension effects and thermocapillary motion; flapping flight of insects and swimming of fish; phase-change heat transfer; passive thermal management; smart homes; multifunctional heat-pipes; manufacturing of complex carbon composite objects and improvement of STEM education in K-12 (First Lab School focused on Advanced Manufacturing). Learn more »
  • James Lambert: A researcher in the Center for Risk Management of Engineering Systems, he works on Energy/Environmental Management. His research addresses extreme and rare events, risk-informed engineering decisions, and priority setting for technology investments. Applications have included transportation projects, roadway lighting, roadway guardrails, airborne contaminant sensors, navigation lock walls, voice-data switch and network performance, critical infrastructure protection, military operations infrastructure and environment, information systems acquisition, climate and environmental change, real estate development, population behaviors in disasters, and aerospace system safety. Learn more »