With last month’s approval of a new energy lock-in fee, UCSB now has the most student funding for on-site renewable energy projects of any university in the United States.

The Student Services Renewable Energy Initiative will cost students $6 per quarter and will collect $3.4 million by 2020 for the construction of renewable energy sources on campus. The fee — which received 55.5 percent of the student vote — sunsets in 2020 and will not reappear on the ballot at any time for reaffirmation. The initiative is part of an ongoing Student Affairs “Zero Net Energy” campaign that aims to make the division entirely energy-independent.

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Students’ recent approval of the energy lock-in fee will allow UCSB to initiate renewable energy programs including solar power and a photovoltaic array.

The student fees will fund on-site renewable energy sources, such as a photovoltaic array currently being designed for the top of Parking Structure 22. Other potential projects include a solar pre-heat of water for the Recreation Center Aquatic Complex and a ground loop heat pump under the Robertson Gym Recreation Fields.

Michael Hewitt, team manager of the Green Campus Program, said the campaign essentially pays for itself.

“The goal of the entire Zero Net Energy campaign is to create the first energy-independent division in higher education,” Hewitt said. “That means, on an annual basis, the division of Student Affairs would not use any more energy than it produced from renewable energy sources. Student Affairs has an annual utility cost of about a million dollars, so when Zero Net Energy is accomplished, they’ll be saving a million dollars a year. Most of that will go back into the budget for Student Affairs, which will go directly to benefit students.”

Associated Students External Vice President for Local Affairs Clayton Carlson said the process of achieving Zero Net Energy is a collaborative effort of retrofitting buildings and creating on-site renewable energy sources, which offset any remaining utilities costs.

“The money that we’ve asked students to put in is only going toward the renewable energy side,” Carlson said.
“We didn’t feel comfortable asking students to pay for the entire project; we just wanted students to put in a piece of the pie.”

According to Carlson, funding for sustainable energy projects on campus comes from a wide array of sources.

“$3.4 million from the student lock-in fee is part of a bigger pie of funding for different projects that Student Affairs is going to do, the total of which is around $12 million,” Carlson said. “The other three quarters of the project funding is still being put together by outside donors, Student Affairs, and other departments, like Physical Facilities.”

Carlson said the student body’s endorsement of the fee pushes the university closer to its environmental goals.

“It’s a pretty bold statement that the students made in voting ‘yes’ to push us in the right direction environmentally,” Carlson said. “… The green movement is this new, sexy thing that everybody wants to be involved with, and now we’re finally able to set the bar higher again by pushing this initiative forward.”