Ohio State is inching toward the privatization of energy services at its Columbus campus with the commencement of a new phase in the university’s energy management plan.
The university announced last week in a letter to students and staff that OSU would enter the second of a three-phase plan to investigate the potential partnership, requesting information from prospective groups as to how they plan to implement energy management.
The winning partner will be tasked with maintenance, upkeep and operation of the campus’ energy systems, including electricity, natural gas, chilled-water cooling systems and steam-generated heating systems.
This phase of the OSU’s Comprehensive Energy Management plan will request specifics concerning proposing groups’ plans to meet the university’s sustainability goals and energy operation standards.
OSU believes it will be the first U.S. university to consider a comprehensive energy plan to this scale, university spokesman Chris Davey said in an email.
“Sustainability is a key reason we are considering this project,” Davey said. “If we move forward with this comprehensive energy management project, Ohio State’s partner or partners would be responsible for accomplishing campuswide energy conservation measures. These would reduce energy consumption and/or improve energy efficiencies, which in turn reduce the amount of energy-related carbon dioxide attributable to Ohio State. By installing energy conservation measures campus-wide, we have the opportunity to more significantly improve our carbon footprint than if we did one small project at a time.”
Davey added the estimated cost to fund energy conservation measures on campus is more than $250 million.
“In this project, that cost would be funded by our partner(s), which would allow Ohio State to use our funds to directly support our academic mission,” he said. “In addition, it is estimated that approximately $1.7 billion in capital expenditures to maintain and improve Ohio State’s energy system would be funded by a potential partner over the life of the lease, rather than by the university, further allowing Ohio State to focus its resources on our academic mission.”
Company responses are due in December, at which time responses will be evaluated by the project team and three advisory groups, comprised of the President and Provost’s Council on Sustainability, a faculty advisory group and a physical environment council, according to OSU’s energy management website.
OSU has qualified a total of 40 groups of the 44 that showed interested during the previous qualification request stage, in which groups described to the university their preliminary plans concerning utility operations, supplying energy, conserving energy and establishing an affinity relationship.
Initiatives of the affinity agreement could “include, but are not limited to, research collaboration with faculty, scholarships and internships for students, and integrated co-branded energy marketing opportunities,” according to a university energy management request for qualifications document.
The project would include the evaluation and implementation of energy conservation measures across 450 buildings, spanning about 22 million square feet of of the university’s campus space and infrastructure.
OSU consumed nearly 590,000 megawatt hours of electricity in fiscal year 2014, according to an university energy management request for qualifications document.
Annually, the university spends more than $100 million on energy costs, Davey said.
In 2012, OSU privatized its parking when the university signed a 50-year, $483 million contract with Australian investment firm QIC Global Infrastructure to create CampusParc. OSU also holds private contracts with Coca-Cola Co., Nike Inc. and Huntington Bank, along with other companies.
In the next phase of the Comprehensive Energy Management, which is expected to begin in early 2016, companies will bid on OSU’s proposal. The Board of Trustees will later consider the proposal for approval.