Will Duke Meet Its Climate Neutrality Goal by 2024?

Open forum will be held April 10 to discuss potential of biogas for campus energy needs

Duke's Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Duke has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 24 percent from the 2007 baseline, but tough decisions remain on how to address the remaining portion.

Duke University set an ambitious goal about 10 years ago to become climate neutral by 2024, but with less than six years left some tough decisions remain about how best to get there.

Overall emissions have been reduced by 24 percent from the 2007 baseline. The majority of those reductions have come from energy emissions, which are down 36 percent despite an additional 1.7 million square feet of space that has been added. But a significant portion of greenhouse gas emissions remain, and the options have become more limited.

One of those options is the potential to use biogas from swine farms in North Carolina as a source of renewable fuel. Duke's initial plans for biogas only included offsetting those emissions it could not reduce. But due to technological advancements brought about in part by Duke’s biogas project at Loyd Ray Farms and policy changes, Duke University began to consider biogas as a renewable fuel source.

“Biogas offers a double dividend of capturing methane, which is 34 times more detrimental than carbon dioxide, and burning it as a renewable fuel to help address the University’s energy needs,” said Tavey Capps, director for Sustainable Duke.

Renewable fuel was a key issue during discussions that stalled last year about building a Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plant on campus. Since then Duke officials have continued to explore the recommendation from the Campus Sustainability Committee to only pursue CHP if it could obtain enough directed biogas through swine waste to render the plant carbon neutral in its first year of operation and fully fueled within five years.

Duke University hopes to be in a position to make a decision regarding biogas procurement in 2018 following continued stakeholder engagement during the spring semester.

As part of that process, an open forum will be held from 6-7:30 p.m. April 10, in Penn Pavilion on West Campus to discuss the University’s progress toward climate neutrality, options for biogas as a fuel source, and a proposed CHP. Questions for the forum can be submitted in advance by sending an email to sustainability@duke.edu.