A Boost for Tufts’ Environmental Goals
In moves designed to advance its ambitious environmental agenda, Tufts will create a sustainability investment fund and begin planning for a new energy plant on the Medford/Somerville campus that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent. The Board of Trustees approved both actions at its meeting on Nov. 8.
The new Tufts University Sustainability Fund (TUSF) will give donors the option of designating that their endowment gifts be invested in a way that acknowledges the importance of environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors. Tufts will launch the new TUSF with seed funding from the university.
The energy plant, authorized by the Trustee Administration and Finance Committee, would replace the 60-year-old central heating plant behind Braker Hall and the Lincoln Filene Center. The project, still in the planning stages, supports the goals of the Campus Sustainability Council, including reductions in energy consumption and greenhouse gases.
“I applaud these forward-looking decisions by our trustees,” Tufts President Anthony P. Monaco said. “Sustainability is deeply ingrained in our campus culture,” he said, pointing to the eco-ambassadors program and other initiatives of the Office of Sustainability as well as the ongoing assessment of the potential for solar power on the Medford/Somerville and Grafton campuses.
Exploring the establishment of a sustainability fund was a key recommendation of a working group of students, faculty, administrators and trustees that Monaco appointed in April 2013 to examine the university’s role in mitigating climate change.
ESG investing is relatively new. “The sustainability fund gives us an opportunity to learn more about the feasibility and effectiveness of these kinds of investments,” Monaco said. Ideally, income generated by the fund will support sustainability programming in both academics and operations, he said.
The TUSF will be part of the university endowment, which stood at $1.6 billion as of June 30, and thus will be guided by the Tufts investment policy, which governs the management of endowed assets.
It is anticipated that the sustainability fund will be available as an option for donors early in 2015, said Executive Vice President Patricia Campbell.
The first step, she said, will be to appoint a small advisory committee that will help define what constitutes an environmentally supportable or socially responsible investment. A member of the Trustee Investment Committee will chair the advisory group, which will include representation from the administration, faculty and student body, Campbell said. The advisors will provide input to the Investment Committee, which has final decision-making authority over all Tufts investments.
The university does not invest in individual companies. Instead, it uses commingled or pooled funds—mutual funds are one example—in which multiple investors hold a piece of an investment portfolio in proportion to the value of their individual investments.
Campbell said Tufts will “develop deeper expertise in our Investment Office with respect to ESG investing.” The Investment Office also will work with the University Advancement Division so that fundraisers will be prepared to talk to donors about the new option for endowment giving, she said.
Campus Energy Plant
Estimated to cost $36 million, the new energy plant will meet the needs of the Medford/Somerville campus for generations to come and will pay for itself in approximately a dozen years through anticipated energy savings, Campbell said. The plant will have the capacity to serve new buildings on campus, including the Science and Engineering Complex, which is scheduled to open in 2017 on a site fronting Dearborn Road near Anderson, Bromfield-Pearson and Robinson halls.
The plant will take advantage of the latest high-efficiency cogeneration, or cogen, technologies, which use a single fuel source to simultaneously generate heat and electricity on site. Thermal energy for heating that otherwise would be wasted will be captured to produce electricity. The cogen process will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 20 percent compared with the existing boiler system in the aging heating plant, Campbell said.
The new plant, tentatively planned for a site next to Dowling Hall on Boston Avenue, also will contain a chilled-water production system that will cool campus buildings and equipment. Campbell said the university will be working closely with the community during the plant development and permitting process.
The cogen plant also will provide learning opportunities for students taking courses in the environment and sustainability. “I envision the Campus Energy Plant as a living laboratory,” Monaco said, “one where our students can obtain real-world experience with innovative energy-conservation technologies and systems. This facility will demonstrate in tangible ways how appropriate technology can impact sustainability.”