Each month, our newsletter features a person or group on campus that is working toward a more sustainable world. This month features Peggy Delaney, Vice Chancellor of Planning and Budget for UCSC. She serves on the University of California's wholesale power board, which recently successfully coordinated and advocated for the largest purchase of solar energy by any university in the United States. Though this doesn't mean you're going to see more solar panels on campus, this agreement "will allow the university’s campuses served by the Wholesale Power Program to receive energy that is 60 percent sourced from renewable supply" (UC Press Room). UC Santa Cruz is one of those campuses.
We interviewed Peggy Delaney to learn more about her role in this and how her work on campus supports sustainability efforts.
Education: Ph.D. Massachusetts Institute of Technology/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program in Oceanography. B.S. in chemistry from Yale University.
How are you involved with campus energy management and sustainability?
I'm the Vice Chancellor of Planning and Budget, which includes working with the budget office, capital management, and UC system-wide efforts. I serve in several roles that help UCSC advance its sustainability initiatives. I am the campus representative to the wholesale power board, which advises the newly-formed Energy Services Unit at UC Office of the President. This board works to help campuses become “direct access” customers, allowing campuses to purchase energy through the quasi-power company created by the UC system. In addition to working with the board, I also serve on the Global Climate Leadership Council that President Napolitano initiated to support the UC goal for all campuses to become Carbon Neutral by 2025.
I've been a fan of the Sustainability Office for a long time. I helped with the Office's funding request on its way to the Executive Vice Chancellor's desk. Many of the building projects that I'm involved with through capital management are designed by LEED-certified colleagues. I also helped with the co-generation plant replacement project, which generates power for our campus on-site.
We are excited to learn about the recent purchase of enough solar electricity to allow the UC to supply 206,000 megawatt-hours per year of solar energy to California's electrical grid. What was your role in helping the system increase its renewable energy portfolio?
The wholesale power board that I serve on was instrumental in this process. There is a lot of complex and technical energy background needed to participate on this board, so I have been learning a lot from Patrick Testoni, UCSC's Energy Manager, and Henry Salameh, Director of Physical Plant. Right now is an outstanding time to move forward with this purchase because we were able to take advantage of a tax credit that will soon expire. The board agreed with the Energy Service Unit to take advantage of this, and the board even agreed to purchase a higher percentage of renewables than is required by law. In 2016 the renewable energy access will go live and will supply 20% of campus electricity with solar power!
What is your long-term vision for sustainability at UCSC?
I'm an oceanographer focused on paleoceanography, the study of the history of our oceans, so long-term climate changes are something I have been thinking about for a long time. When thinking about sustainability at UCSC, I think with both parts of my brain--my academic self knowing that we need to tackle climate change and the financial, budget-management self saying we seemingly can't afford to do that. We must integrate sustainability on our campus in a financially sustainable way.
Fortunately, we're doing that already with things like the Integrated Climate and Energy Study.
In the mid-2000s, people in my field of research began discussing managing oceans as a whole ecosystem, and the campus is like this, too, an ecosystem. Sustainability work is in the process of going from the individual level to system-wide, and our campus has been doing this for a long time, understanding the University organization as a whole and incorporating sustainability throughout.
What are some ways students can support President Napolitano's "Carbon Neutral by 2025" directive?
There's not any medium sized entity in the world that has actually achieved carbon neutrality. Those places that are close or call themselves carbon neutral require manufacturers to take away their packaging and shipping waste. This kind of work requires a systemic approach; we're dealing with the largest geophysical experiment in history and there are enormous social justice inequities. Those who are causing emissions are not around to feel those effects, and many places in the world cannot afford for us all to reach that level of emissions. It's an intergenerational and diverse challenge.
Often, students are enthusiastic in approaching these challenges, and they can bring creativity and an ability to think differently. This challenge we're facing is huge, but it's not intractable. Students and young people can keep this issue in the forefront of the political world and insure we continue to work to solve it.
When did you first become interested in environmental sustainability issues?
I first became interested in these issues in the early '80s because my field of research looks at the past climate of the oceans, so those of us studying this topic were thinking of this topic already. Back then, we didn't even recycle paper on campus, so I sent around a polite but somewhat cranky memo asking why we couldn't do that. I also taught a global change course that explored the potency of humans as actors on the geophysical scale. It can be hard to connect small actions to changes in our climate, but we have to have traction in understanding those relationships in order to solve these issues.
If you had one piece of "green" advice to give people, what would it be?
Our experiment with carbon dioxide on the atmosphere is enormous and the most pressing environmental issue of our time because it is also a social inequity issue. We can't allow politics to get in the way, and we need the will to implement the solutions we already have.
Is there anything else you would like the students to learn about you or our campus sustainability initiatives?
There are so many ways for students to engage with these issues at UC Santa Cruz. There are funding opportunities and programs in place to allow students to participate in the operations of our campus. Students can benefit academically while also influencing UCSC long after they have graduated and moved on.