A two page informational handout on MIT's progress towards the GHG goal.
MIT’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory
MIT's greenhouse gas inventory
Each year, MIT measures the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the operation of our campus to better understand our direct contribution to the heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere – the gases contributing to global climate change. This basis informs our carbon reduction strategies and allows for tracking progress over time.
In 2020, MIT continued to advance toward its goal of a minimum 32% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2030. Overall net emissions are now 24% below MIT’s 2014 baseline, with emissions on campus reduced 6% over the previous fiscal year. This reduction was driven in part by gains in building-level energy efficiency investments, operational efficiency of the Central Utilities Plant (CUP), improvements in the New England regional electricity grid, a less intense heating season, and a temporary de-densification of campus due to COVID-19. Of the 24% net reduction achieved, 13% is attributed to our solar power purchase agreement, 10% to on-campus mitigation measures, and less than 1% to carbon improvements to the local electricity grid.
Overall emissions reduction progress since 2014
Explore each year of MIT’s GHG Inventory in detail via the tabbed pages above. Also check out the resource list below for presentations, data, and handouts as they become available.
MIT published its Campus Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Strategy in 2015, which lays out the pathways and strategies that will guide the MIT administration in meeting or surpassing MIT's greenhouse gas emission reduction goal.
Read the latest MIT News article on our progress here.
The current inventory includes emissions associated with three primary sources: owned and leased buildings, specialty research and process gases, and campus vehicles. In October 2015, MIT set a goal to use the campus as a “test bed” for climate action, and develop solutions to reduce campus emissions by at least 32 percent by 2030 and aspire toward achieving carbon neutrality as soon as possible.
Scope 3 Emissions
In 2019, the MIT Office of Sustainability (MITOS) expanded upon a multi-year effort to build a preliminary picture of the Institute’s Scope 3, or indirect, GHG emissions. This is done to inform MIT’s total greenhouse gas emissions activities (Scopes 1 + 2 + 3) and explore where strategic opportunities may exist to reduce emissions beyond what MIT is currently tracking. This effort is developing additional emissions data associated with MIT’s purchased goods and services, MIT-sponsored travel, commuting, and capital goods (furniture, fixtures, tools, etc.) using the WRI & WBCSD GHG Protocol for Scope 3 framework.
The Role of Summit Farms Solar Power Purchase
Summit Farms Solar LLC is a solar photovoltaic facility in Currituck County North Carolina, operated by Dominion Energy. MIT has contracted through a long-term power purchase agreement for the purchase of 73% of the electricity produced. MIT has chosen to retire the renewable energy credits associated with the purchase.
The offsets produced by Summit Farms’ clean, emissions-free power are clear and tangible. The solar facility displaces more carbon-intensive sources of energy, in a region where forty percent of its power is generated from coal. In addition to displacing power, the solar farm has helped to facilitate the early retirement of a large coal-fired plant nearby, by providing substitute power to make up for the coal plant’s contractual peak-power delivery obligations. The owners of the coal plant are paying the purchasing partners (that include MIT) to provide substitute capacity as they come offline, making it economically feasible for the coal plant to retire ahead of schedule.
With campus as a test bed, climate action starts and continues at MIT
Recap for 2020
In 2020, MIT continued to advance toward its goal of a minimum 32% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2030. Overall net emissions are now 24% below MIT’s 2014 baseline, with emissions on campus reduced 6% over the previous fiscal year. This reduction was driven in part by gains in building-level energy efficiency investments, operational efficiency of the Central Utilities Plant (CUP), improvements in the New England regional electricity grid, a less intense heating season, and a temporary de-densification of campus due to COVID-19.
Sources of Reduced Emissions
In FY20, MIT realized a net reduction of nearly 11,000 metric tons of GHG emissions from the previous year. These net changes were driven by several primary factors as highlighted below. Preliminary efforts to develop data on the Institute’s Scope 3, or indirect, GHG emissions continue. This data will inform MIT’s total GHG emissions activities and enable MIT to explore opportunities to reduce emissions beyond what is currently being tracked.
MIT continues to track toward its minimum 32% reduction goal by 2030
Recap for 2019
In 2019, MIT continued to advance toward its goal of a minimum 32% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2030. Overall net emissions are 18% below our 2014 baseline as on-campus greenhouse gas emissions increased slightly from 2018 levels. This 2% increase in 2019 was in part driven by growth in campus size—including the first fully operational year for MIT.nano—local weather, and the use of specialty research gases. Investments in energy efficiency projects offset a portion of the growth in energy demand.
Innovating for GHG Mitigation
MIT is home to numerous lab facilities where energy consumption is typically high due to the conditioning of outside air for ventilation purposes, coupled with high air change rates. MIT is currently exploring the development of an innovative laboratory ventilation procedure program to minimize energy consumption while also ensuring the safety and integrity of lab experimentation. The use of specialty gases in research across campus contributes a small yet potent source of greenhouse gas emissions at MIT. As MIT.nano is expected to use substantial amounts of these gases, the research facility is testing a new system to neutralize these emissions through abatement solutions at point of use — reducing emissions and providing a model for altering the emissions potential of similar research and manufacturing facilities around the world.
Summit Farms Solar Facility
MIT continued to benefit from the Institute’s 25-year commitment to purchase electricity generated through its Summit Farm Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). The agreement has enabled the construction of a roughly
650-acre, 60-megawatt solar farm on fallow farmland in North Carolina. Through the purchase of 87,300 megawatt hours of solar power, MIT was able to offset over 30,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions (MTCO2e) from our
on-campus operations in 2019. The Summit Farms PPA model has been credited with inspiring a number of similar projects around the country putting additional renewable energy onto the power grid.
As MIT explores strategies for achieving climate neutrality in the future, a core component continues to be scaling up campus energy efficiency. Anchored by significant planned efficiency gains from MIT’s new central utility plant, the Institute is implementing new complementary approaches to increase energy efficiency gains in buildings ranging from testing artificial intelligence to optimize building control systems, to wholesale mechanical system changes in labs to reduce air change requirements creating a more efficient and comfortable work environment.
Solar energy purchase contributes to progress toward goal
Recap for 2018
MIT continues to advance towards its 2015 goal of a 32% reduction in campus greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Compared to 2017, net emissions, which account for the offset by the solar power purchase, have fallen 4.5%, bringing the total net emissions reduction to 20% below our 2014 baseline. Although on-campus gross emissions (which do not account for the solar energy purchase) increased 3% from 2017 to 2018, these emissions have dropped a total of 4% since 2014. Read the MIT News story here for more insight into this progress.
Solar energy purchase agreement update
Through the solar energy purchase agreement, Summit Farms produced 88,774 megawatt hours for MIT in 2018, contributing a net carbon offset of 33,040 metric tons carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2e). The power purchase agreement partnership between MIT, Boston Medical Center and Post Office Square, continues to be viewed as an important and scalable multi-party model for other organizations.
A deeper dive into the sources of MIT's emissions
In 2018 the largest source of MIT's greenhouse gas emissions is associated with the energy to heat, cool, and power our buildings. This is followed by the use of specialty gases that are used in research and operations, and then emissions associated with leased academic space, emissions associated with the transmission and distribution losses of purchased grid electricity, and lastly, emissions from use of fuel in MIT's fleet of campus vehicles.
A note about gross campus emissions
In 2018, gross emissions from all on-campus sources grew slightly from the previous year. This can be attributed to a colder than usual winter, changes in efficiency within the central utility plant, and growth in energy use on campus including new construction. Since 2014, the size of MIT’s campus within the boundaries of our GHG inventory has increased by 2%. When emissions reductions resulting from MIT's purchase of solar energy are taken into account, MIT's net greenhouse gas emissions continued to decline. Read the 2018 GHG summary report below for more details.
Each year, MIT measures the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the operation of our campus to better understand our direct contribution to the heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere – the gases contributing to global climate change. This basis informs our carbon reduction strategies and allows for tracking progress over time. In this section, you can explore emissions updates by year, from 2014 to 2017. For more recent yearly reporting, navigate using the tabs at the top of this section.
This first-of-its-kind report lays out the pathways and strategies that will guide the MIT administration in meeting or surpassing MIT's greenhouse gas emission reduction goal.
Each year, MIT measures campus carbon emissions to better understand our impact on the health of people and the environment, and to inform our carbon reduction strategy. The current inventory includes emissions in three areas: owned & leased buildings, fugitive gases, and campus vehicles.
A Plan for Action on Climate Change called for the development of an open energy data platform to support research and intelligent decision-making. The platform provides a curated series of interactive visualizations on campus and building-level greenhouse gas emissions and utility energy usage.
A greenhouse gas inventory assesses the quantity of greenhouse gases the Institute produces, and identifies the emissions’ sources. The MIT Office of Sustainability (MITOS) uses the Operational Control Approach as defined by the World Resources Institute’s GHG Protocol, the worldwide corporate and campus standard for greenhouse gas emissions measurement. The GHG Protocol defines emissions using three "scopes," which are detailed below along with the specific greenhouse gases measured.
MIT currently measures emissions from owned & leased academic buildings, fugitive gases, and campus vehicles. The emissions from these activities are calculated using the Campus Carbon Calculator — the most commonly used inventory tool for universities — which converts data into a single unit: metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2e).
MITOS conducts and manages the annual inventories in collaboration with the Department of Facilities and the Environment, Health and Safety Office. The MIT Office of Treasury and Planning audits the findings for accuracy. MIT plans to expand the scope of its GHG inventory in the future and actively engage the academic and operational community in the use, refinement, and application of the inventory in order to reduce the carbon intensity of the campus.