solar panels on Douglas Hall

These portfolio solutions will help UIC achieve its commitment to be a Carbon Neutral Campus and could save UIC nearly 75,000 MTCO2e annually. These solutions on this page have been updated from what is mentioned in the original report (2018).


  • 2.1.1 Indirect (10-year) PPA

    Procure 8,000MW of offsite renewable energy including solar and wind power.

  • 2.1.2 Onsite (10-yr) PPA Solar Rooftop Generation

    Generate 1MW power of on-site rooftop solar power.

  • 2.2.1 Onsite Power Plant Electricity Production

    Use lowest-carbon sources for energy to power campus buildings.


Viable options for increasing UIC’s reliance on renewable-sourced power include a long-term offsite power purchase agreement (PPA) and a variety of onsite options for integrating solar photovoltaic (PV) generation onto campus building rooftops.

In lieu of purchasing a traditional mix of electricity from the grid, UIC can purchase non-direct renewable power (Solution 2.1.1). Indirect long-term PPA’s are a financial transaction between the generating facility and the off-taker; no renewable power is physically delivered. Instead of routing renewable power to the off-taker, the generator sells the power directly to the grid and receives the open market price. Students have expressed their support for this type of procurement.

Onsite renewable energy such as solar PV rooftop generation, is a way to physically source a portion of a facility’s energy needs, improve the fuel diversity of the system, and promote energy independence by visibly demonstrating a civic commitment to reduce reliance on fossil fuels (Solution 2.1.2). Additional funding streams for physical deployment and/or procurement include grants and public-private partnerships, of which are currently and will continue to be sought out by the OS and coordinated by the VCAS.

Furthermore, with the update of the Illinois Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards, the options for supporting the development of Illinois-based sources of solar (and other renewable sources of energy) are enhanced, and increasingly competitive, if contracted for over a 15 to 25-year period. However, the University of Illinois typically does not enter into procurement of energy commodities for more than 10 years. It is recommended that options for extending that time line be explored by the VCAS Solar Working Group (see 2.1.2)

On-site Power Plant Production vs. Purchased Electricity

Onsite Power Plant Production vs. Purchased Electricity. Scatter-plot style graph with two sets of data and points connected. One line being the Purchased Electricity data which has an overall positive trend, increasing from roughly 65,000 Megawatt-hours in 2004 to roughly 190,000 Megawatt-hours in 2016. The second line is On-Site Campus CoGeneration Electricity data which has an overall negative trend, decreasing from about 240,000 Megawatt-hours in 2004 to about 95,000 Megawatt-hours in 2016. The two data sets intersect at roughly 140,000 Megawatt-hours in 2009, where purchased electricity surpasses On-site Campus CoGeneration Electricity.

Power plants at UIC use an engine or turbine to generate electricity and utilize the excess heat generated from equipment for heating buildings. This can be up to twice as efficient in its energy use as a typical coal or gas-fired powered electricity plant. These plants produce electricity, steam, and high temperature hot water for heating, cooling, and electric loads. While the plants primarily run on natural gas, they also use diesel oil to start up engines or to operate in emergencies.  The increase in UIC’s GHG emissions between 2004 and 2009 can be attributed to the economically-driven shift towards purchasing significantly more electricity from the grid, rather than generating on site, as seen in the associate graph.


UIC primarily purchases natural gas and electricity through mechanisms such as reverse auctions to reduce reliance on spot markets which decreases budgetary uncertainty. When calculating emissions from purchased electricity, UIC uses the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (US EPA) regional Emissions & Generation Resource Integrated Database (eGRID) subregion RFCW data which is comprised of 60% coal, 25.7% nuclear, 3.6% renewable, and 9.3% natural gas. In spite of the recent efficiencies achieved, there was an overall increase in CO2 emissions per kWh of electricity utilized by UIC. This negates much of the emission reductions that should have been realized through progress, but is explained by UIC’s onsite use of cogeneration, or combined heat and power (CHP).