Getting to Zero Emissions

Greenhouse Gas Reduction Strategies

bicycles and walkers between doe library and free speech cafe

Annually, the Office of Sustainability tracks and reports on the carbon emissions associated with the Berkeley campus while actively implementing effective strategies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Every individual on the Berkeley campus plays a crucial role in helping the campus reach its ambitious goal of zero carbon emissions by reducing resource use, and improving energy conservation and efficiency, and choosing sustainable transportation options.

Carbon Reduction Initiatives

Clean Energy Campus Project

UC Berkeley’s Clean Energy Campus initiative is leading decarbonization. Currently a natural gas-fueled cogeneration plant supplies 90% of campus energy. The Clean Energy Campus project will replace that outdated plant with a 100% clean energy microgrid, a model for the 21st century. 

Phase I of this project ,on-track to be completed by 2028, will reduce campus fossil-fuel combustion by 85%. Thus this phase will achieve a 70% reduction in related carbon emissions generated from campus buildings’ energy needs. Phase I will include building a new plant powered by clean electricity rather than by gas; installing a distribution system for circulating power, heating and cooling to the most energy-intensive buildings at Cal; and employing a set of sustainable auxiliary power storage and generation technologies to supplement and provide resiliency to the electrified plant.  Phase II of the Campus Clean Energy project, to be completed by 2030, will connect the remaining campus buildings to the distribution network. With this phase realized, the campus will achieve an astounding 85% reduction in fossil fuel carbon emissions. Learn more at the Clean Energy Campus website

On-Site Renewable Energy

The campus is currently generating over 1.2 MW of on-site solar electricity with substantially more Solar PV and battery storage underway.  The campus also has one on-site solar thermal system on a residence hall, with plans for additional use of local geothermal energy with the realization of the Clean Energy Campus initiative. View our solar systems in action at the Recreational Sports Facility and at the University Village ApartmentsLearn more about solar at UC Berkeley.

Purchasing Clean Energy 

Nearly half of the energy purchased by Berkeley (~20 million kWh annually) is clean electricity, procured through the UC Clean Power Program and the East Bay Community Energy Renewable program. This move was cost-neutral and is saving ~4,000 tons of carbon emissions a year.

Building Upgrades 

The Energy Office tracks, monitors, and manages energy efficiency projects and energy usage campus-wide to reduce energy costs. The office also improves the design, performance, and operation of buildings, and provides feedback on energy usage to building occupants. 

Recommended energy upgrades save the campus millions of dollars each year. These projects support the UC system-wide goal of reducing campus energy use by at least 2% each year. 

Business Air Travel Carbon Mitigation Program

Berkeley’s Business Air Travel Carbon Mitigation Program mitigates the high environmental impacts of our business air travel by investing in campus programs that reduce UC Berkeley’s carbon footprint! Learn more about the Business Air Travel Carbon Mitigation Program.

Sustainable Transportation & Commute

Over 80% of UC Berkeley commuters now walk, bicycle, rideshare, or take public transit. The Alternative Transportation program makes sustainable commuting easier for students, faculty, and staff. Flexible work arrangements and utilizing campus contracts for video conferencing technology also help to reduce commutes. The Flexible Work Toolkit contains tips to save resources, energy and money while working from anywhere. 

Additionally, the campus-owned fleet has become smaller and greener over time. As a result, fleet fuel use is down over 25% from 1990.

Getting to Zero Waste 

Minimizing waste not only decreases resource consumption, it also reduces emissions linked with production and disposal processes. By actively promoting recycling and composting throughout campus, Berkeley’s waste reduction initiatives play a role in advancing carbon footprint reduction. Since 1990, the campus has achieved a 50% reduction in carbon emissions stemming from landfill activities despite a significant growth in population.  Learn more about the campus waste performance.

See the performance section for highlights on our goals and initiatives.

Can Berkeley go "geothermal"?

Why is UC Berkeley is drilling a 400-foot deep borehole on the north side of campus? Engineers are determining the feasibility of using a geothermal heat pump system as part of the Clean Energy Campus plan to decarbonize campus. (Video by Roxanne Makasdjian, Alan Toth and Adam Lau)