Energy Efficiency

Advancing energy efficiency on campus

Energy efficiency is a cornerstone of MIT’s strategy to achieve its campus greenhouse gas reduction goal of at least 32 percent by 2030, with 2014 as the baseline.

Delivering electricity, heating, and cooling efficiently

Since its founding, MIT has made critical decisions in its long-term planning to prioritize campus energy efficiency while meeting the energy needs of an urban research campus. Upon moving to Cambridge in 1916, MIT designed, installed, and embraced a state-of-the-art district utility system, powered by coal to produce steam (and by the mid-1930s, oil-powered) to provide energy to the campus – a decision which allowed it to forego the installation of numerous small-scale furnaces across campus.

In the mid 1990s, the campus’ Central Utilities Plant (CUP) was expanded to provide a natural gas-fired combined heat and power system - also known as co-generation - to produce electricity and steam. This decision also prioritizes energy efficiency, as co-generation is prized for its efficiency gains as it captures and uses the heat that would otherwise have been wasted out the exhaust stack. Read more about the CUP and its upcoming renovations here. 

Demand-side management

In addition to MIT’s energy supply efforts, MIT is actively pursuing a diverse portfolio of strategies that focus on reducing the energy demands of buildings.  MIT’s Department of Facilities leads campus energy efficiency programs for both new construction and existing facilities, and coordinates efficiency measures across numerous operating units. Efficiency Forward – MIT’s core efficiency program - has been operating since 2010 and continues to implement highly successful conservation measures to reduce energy use across campus. Efficiency Forward is a partnership with the utility company Eversource that enables MIT to implement comprehensive energy efficiency measures across campus including:

  • Installing high-efficiency equipment and components in new buildings, upgrading lighting and associated controls in existing buildings, and retrofitting to improve the efficiency of existing mechanical systems and HVAC systems.

  • Helping MIT in achieving its annual reduction target of 34 million kilowatt hours in the program’s first three-year term. These savings are equivalent to the electricity consumed annually by 3,000 Massachusetts homes.

  • Enabling MIT to achieve the milestone of an annual reduction of 55 million kilowatt-hours by June 2016.

  • Helping MIT to reduce natural gas consumption on campus. The initial goal of saving 350,000 therms of natural gas by June 2016 has been far surpassed, as MIT was already on track to reduce consumption by more than 900,000 therms by that date.

Through 2016, the program has implemented 252 projects in the following high-priority and high-return project areas:

  • Capital projects (new construction and major renovation)

  • Lighting upgrades

  • Building retro-commissioning

  • Mechanical system improvements

  • Utility distribution system insulation

  • Building continuous commissioning (MBCx)

  • Equipment replacement incentives

More information on MIT’s future plans for energy efficiency as part of MIT’s Plan for Action on Climate Change can be found in MIT’s GHG Reduction Strategy.

Additional information

  • MIT Greenhouse Gas Reduction Strategy report

  • Understanding Campus Energy @ MIT: A historical narrative of powering MIT from 1916 to the present

  • MIT Plan for Action on Climate Change

  • MIT Department of Facilities, Efficiency Forward Program

Project Partners

MIT Department of Facilities including its Campus Construction, Maintenance and Utilities, and Infrastructure Business Operations units.

  • Office of Campus Planning

  • Environment, Health and Safety Office

  • Office of Sustainability

  • Division of Student Life