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Business Intel

March/April 2020


Collaborating for Change

The University of California System’s Carbon Neutrality Initiative commits UC to emitting net zero greenhouse gases from its buildings and vehicle fleet by 2025. One important strategy for meeting this goal, in addition to buy-in from the UC leadership, has been the Million LED Challenge (MLC), a project aimed at drastically increasing the use of high-quality, high-efficacy LED light sources by facilities, students, staff, faculty, alumni, and retirees, including through a bulk purchasing discount.

Initially launched in 2016 at the UC Davis California Lighting Technology Center, the MLC is now a collaborative effort of the University of California, the California State University System, the California Community College System, and the California Department of General Services. The program offers a simple, research-based, and cost-effective way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by significantly advancing energy efficiency through an aggressive replacement effort of incandescent and linear fluorescent fixture types.

“The MLC is a practical program that delivers quantifiable carbon savings for all 10 UC campuses and numerous other state facilities,” says Reynaldo Cano-Boza, senior commodity manager for facilities and maintenance, UC Centers of Excellence. “Additionally, this program demonstrates that all segments of higher education in California are working together with the state to maximize the value of investment in higher education.”

Lighting Makes a Difference

Lightbulbs may seem insignificant in the fight to reduce greenhouse gases, but a widespread reduction can yield huge results. For example, by replacing 1 million 60-watt incandescent bulbs that are used about three hours a day, California can save 55.8 (or 85 percent) of its GWh annually. These savings will decrease carbon emissions by 41,461 metric tons, which is like removing 8,900 passenger vehicles from the road each year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s greenhouse gas equivalencies calculator.

While Californians are generally dedicated to reducing greenhouse gases, choosing energy-efficient bulbs isn’t as easy as it sounds. Many lightbulbs designed with energy efficiency as the only criteria are dim, short-lived, and make it difficult to see colors properly, according to Michael Siminovitch, director of the California Lighting Technology Center.

The MLC partners have adopted established standards to ensure that all bulbs included in the program meet the criteria for both high efficiency and high quality. As a result, institutions as well as consumers associated with the state’s facilities, colleges, and universities can easily switch to energy-efficient bulbs for their own homes, without worrying about whether the products will provide good, natural lighting for a long time.

Partnering for Better Purchasing

To encourage educational institutions and associated households to switch to energy-efficient lightbulbs, UC Procurement Services joined forces with the California Department of General Services, the California State University System, and the California Community College System to leverage the program statewide.

With bulk purchasing, all partners are able to save on more efficient lighting, and the MLC website makes it quick and easy to place orders. The website also offers educational resources to help users understand their options for their next lighting purchase and provides secure purchasing at discount prices for students, staff, faculty, alumni, and retirees of the partner organizations.

The California Lighting Technology Center used research from the California Energy Commission to develop the lighting quality specifications for the MLC program. Based on those specifications, the Strategic Sourcing arm of UC Procurement Services launched an RFP to the lighting industry and selected appropriate qualifying vendors. Selected light sources have been tested at the California Lighting Technology Center to ensure that the performance of the products meets the specification requirements. With widespread adoption of high-quality, high-efficiency and cost-effective light sources, Siminovitch says, the MLC program is already delivering significant energy savings and reduced emissions.

NANCY MANN JACKSON, Huntsville, Ala., covers higher education business issues for Business Officer.

Among surveyed employers, problem-solving skills topped the list of most sought-after attributes on a candidate’s resume at 91.2 percent.
Job Outlook 2020, National Association of Colleges and Employers

Fast Fact

Quick Clicks

The State of Data on Campus

Higher education has some catching up to do when it comes to data, according to the Kaufman Hall report Higher Education Financial Trends: Priorities, Challenges, and Insights to Get Ahead in 2020. The report, based on data collected in fall 2019 from an online survey of budget and finance professionals from a range of institutions, notes that 76 percent of respondents believe that higher education lags other industries in adopting data-driven tools and practices. Respondents feel the most critical areas for improvement are: (1) making access to accurate data easier; (2) connecting disparate systems to enable all data to roll up in a single view; and (3) increasing the overall ease of data use to demystify the financial information that managers and staff receive.

Gates Foundation Launches Grant Program

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has initiated a new grant program to support colleges and universities in making changes to help many more students—especially low-income and first-generation students, students of color, and working adults—achieve their educational goals. Intermediaries for Scale will dedicate $20 million to help fund 12 organizations committed to promoting college completion and student success agendas, with a focus on four priorities: increasing awareness; informing campus-level decision making; supporting transformation efforts; and building connections.

By The Numbers

Long-Term Institutional Debt, FY19

In addition to presenting data on institutional endowments, the 2019 NACUBO-TIAA Study of Endowments also reports information on college and university long-term debt. Long-term debt is defined as “the amount of outstanding debt that has a maturity of 12 months or longer.” Such debt is usually financed by bonds or similar fixed-income instruments. The following is a summary of key long-term debt data collected from institutions that participated in the 2019 NTSE.

Source: 2019 NACUBO-TIAA Study of Endowments