Energy, Sustainability, & Transportation


The foundation of the CSU rests on the social, economic, and environmental pillars that represent the broader scope of sustainability. It is our mission to improve the lives of our students by providing a high quality and affordable education while remaining committed to reducing our carbon impact.  CSU met and exceeded one of our most ambitious goals to reduce our Greenhouse Gas or Carbon emissions target of 1990 levels by 2020. Revised and adopted by the CSU Board of Trustees in March 2022, the revisions aim to modernize language, align with state goals, and continue to challenge the system to actively respond to the needs of our students, the university, and the state, especially as climate change continues and resources are impacted.

CSU adopted the goal of carbon neutrality by 2045 in alignment with existing campus plans and statewide goals. The interim goal will be to reduce carbon emissions to 80% below 1990 GHG levels by 2040 to keep the CSU on track as we strive for carbon neutrality. To be carbon neutral, a campus would essentially continue to increase energy efficiency, reduce carbon content of our purchased fuel, and increase solar power generation.  To achieve these ambitious carbon targets, the policy has been modified to work towards the elimination of new natural gas assets after 2035.  An exception has been included for programmatic needs to ensure this goal does not interfere with academic needs or programming, read the policy.

Sustainability touches all aspects of the California State University. To learn more about the CSU's progress toward integrating sustainability across all facets of our 23-campus system, visit the Impact of the CSU su​stainability webpage​.

Campus Benchmarking Tools and Resources:

Tracking of utility use is critical for both the campuses' and the Chancellor's Office's understanding of how energy and other resources are used. The EIS will help inform centralized procurement decisions for electricity and natural gas and will increase campus administrative effectiveness by automating utility data collection and simplifying reporting. Campuses are encouraged to install building-level metering to improve operational data on facility performance.

These factors are influenced by campus location and climate, type of utility service, hours of operation, occupancy loads, maintenance practice and energy efficiency efforts. Since many of these factors fall outside a campus's control, this data is best used to compare an individual campus's performance over time. Any comparisons between campuses should consider these factors.

The CSU supports and is a major participant in the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s (AASHE) Sustainability Tracking and Assessment Rating System (STARS).  Most campuses have experienced the benefits of membership with AASHE and reporting comprehensive campus sustainability benchmarking data through STARS, the online reporting tool.

The CSU sees value in tracking tracks these campus decisions through the STARS reporting platform in the operations category credits regarding building design, construction, facilities operations, and campus energy consumption.  Click here to view CSU campus reports.

The CSU has broad participation in the Second Nature Climate Commitment for climate action reporting and benchmarking.  This organization provides campuses with tools and resources for university planning, leadership, and coordination.

Climate Resilient Infrastructure Guidelines

With the increasing frequency of extreme weather events across California impacting CSU campuses with catastrophic risk and/ or actual damage, the Chancellor’s Office has worked to develop the climate-informed design day guidelines for climate resilient infrastructure. These guidelines are intended as basis of design considerations for architects, engineers, energy and utilities experts, campus planners, and campus decision makers, when considering the available technologies and building design approaches that aim to future-proof campus physical infrastructure in the face of climate change. Climate-informed design day guidance will strategically position campuses to reduce risk, protect vulnerable campus populations, and be a resilient neighbor and steward within the region. Click here to view the CSU Climate Resilient Infra​​​​​structure Guidelines​.

QuickStart Climate Action Planning Guide​

This QuickStart Guide to Climate Action Planning contributes to campus success by improving their knowledge, ability to communicate and implement climate actions. Additionally, increasing understanding of CSU’s systemwide approach to climate action contrasts with other Universities and Agencies.

CSU’s mission (high quality, accessible, and affordable higher education) requires CSU to equitably decarbonize. This rules out systemwide climate actions that would be fiscally imprudent such as early retirement of capital assets or widespread use of offsets. As a result CSU’s climate action is focused on cost-effective, equitable climate protection for all Californians. Campuses are able to set more aggressive goals under their delegated authority.

California has a goal of carbon neutrality no later than 2045 for all emissions. Current CSU’s early action goal is 80% reduction from 1990 emissions levels by 2040.

These emissions are released from the fuels that a campus burns directly, such as natural gas in boilers, water heaters, or cogeneration plants, and fossil fuels in fleet vehicles.

The minimum standard practice is to replace these assets at burnout with non-fossil fuel infrastructure.

Building Decarbonization Framework

This framework provides campuses with a technical roadmap for replacing fossil fuel infrastructure with clean, electrified alternatives. The framework consists of a policy report, design guidelines, technology review, conceptual recommendations, analysis of simultaneous heating and cooling potential, Title 24 modeling guidelines, and an economic analysis tool. Simultaneous heating and cooling potential dashboards for each campus are accessible with CSU authentication here.

Policy Report Simultaneous Heating Cooling
Design Guidelines Title 24 Performance Modeling
Technology Review LCCA Calculator
Conceptual Recommendations Policy Matrix-Appendix A
Fleet Fuels SUAM 9171
  • Requires battery electric vehicles (BEV) unless justified at each step toward internal combustion engine vehicles
  • As campuses reduce these emissions the contingent liability for underground fuel storage risks grows
  • Consider phase out of on-campus fossil fueling stations

This type of emissions result from purchases of electricity from a utility provider.

California passed Senate Bill 100, requiring the state to achieve carbon free power by 2045, the power mix will be 60% renewable and 40% carbon free sources. This law applies to all load serving entities (LSEs), including Community Choice Energy, bundled, and Direct Access customers. As a result, CSU’s Scope 2 emissions will follow state law.

Campuses may elect to decarbonize Scope 2 emissions faster but individual action is not required to decarbonize scope 2 emissions.

There are other important needs that can be met by onsite renewables.

Onsite Renewable Electricity
  • Onsite renewable energy generation, such as solar PV, reduces scope 2 emission in the near term of 10-20 years while the electric grid continues to decarbonize. Once the California electric grid is fully decarbonized in 2045, onsite renewable electricity generation no longer reduces scope 2 emissions. Onsite renewable energy supports campus specific early action goals.
  • Onsite renewables, if planned properly and combined with battery storage, can contribute to reliable, resilient energy capabilities to ride through grid power outages from wildfires and public safety power shutoffs with reduced carbon pollution, compared to convention fossil fuel generators.
Role of Microgrids

The consequences of climate change, such as the increasing risk of wildfire and public safety power shutoffs(PSPS), have posed difficult operational challenges for campuses. To be resilient in such situations, microgrids, integrated with existing campus distributed energy resources, optimize energy usage and serve to keep critical services online during a grid outage. Microgrids are the keystone of proactive energy management and provide the opportunity for campuses to efficiently operate their emergency centers and critical facilities with minimal disruption.

Benefits of Microgrids

  • Promotes good energy management and energy resilience
  • Campuses can maintain critical functions in cases of emergency
  • Utilizing a phased approach by including microgrid readiness in electrical distribution infrastructure renewals encourages a capital-efficient method of improving infrastructure readiness against future emergencies
  • Solar & battery installations paired with existing diesel generators and overseen by a microgrid controller will provide stable power to critical circuits during outages
Climate Adaptation
  • Resilient energy supplies are one form of climate adaptation that ensures services to enhance recovery.
  • Climate impacts will permeate all aspects of campus operations. Legacy infrastructure systems will require enhancements to weather a climate-changed future.
    • Electrical Service and Distribution
    • Natural Gas
    • Heating Hot Water, Chilled Water, Central Plant & Distribution, HVAC
    • Domestic Hot Water
    • Stormwater & Storm Drains
    • Sanitary Sewer
    • Reclaimed Water
    • Critical Data and Communications
    • Fire Alarm and Fire Water Systems
    • Roadway Utility and Infrastructure

Supply chain emissions are all other indirect emissions in a company's value chain, resulting from purchased goods and services, business travel, commuting, transportation and distribution, waste disposal and use of sold products, investments, and other leased assets.

Sustainable Transportation Programs, per the CSU Sustainability Policy goals

Campuses are required to prioritize lower carbon transportation options before constructing additional parking assets to meet student, faculty and staff commuting and travel needs.

The CSU Transportation and Parking Policy framework includes a master enabling agreement and guidance documents to support campuses implementation of the policy requirements, read the policy.

  • Transportation Demand Management (TDM) Planning
  • Student Housing and Land Use
    • Increasing on-campus student housing is an effective strategy to reduce campus commuting and contributes to student success.
    • Provide amenities that enrich campus life and give on-site access to goods, services and entertainment that reduce the need for the campus community to travel off-campus.
  • Telework and Distance Learning
    • Campuses can implement permanent tele-work policies and increase the number of online course offerings to reduce car commuting, read the policy (CSU log-in required).
The Buy Clean California Act

requires Environmental Product Declarations (EPD) when purchasing certain construction materials (structural steel, concrete steel rebar, flat glass, mineral wool board insulation) for state building projects. Concrete will eventually be added to the list of construction materials that Buy Clean applies to. This Act states that the environmental effects of industrial products must be documented, and the global warming potential (GWP) must be lower than industry average. Buy Clean CA reduces climate change emissions by requiring businesses to purchase clean and efficient materials. This requirement is referenced in the “Environmental Requirements" section of the General Conditions for all major capital projects.  For more information, please visit: https://www.dgs.ca.gov/PD/Resources/Page-Content/Procurement-Division-Resources-List-Folder/Buy-Clean-California-Act

Eligible material Maximum acceptable GWP limit (unfabricated)*
Hot-rolled structural steel sections 1,010 kg CO2 eq. or 1.01E+03 kg CO2 eq. for one metric ton of structural steel.
Hollow structural sections 1,710 kg CO2 eq. or 1.71E+03 kg CO2 eq. for one metric ton of structural steel.
Steel plate 1,490 kg CO2 eq. or 1.49E+03 kg CO2 eq. for one metric ton of structural steel.
Concrete reinforcing steel 890 kg CO2 eq. or 8.90E+02 kg CO2 eq. for one metric ton of bar.
Flat glass 1,430 kg CO2 eq. or 1.43E+03 kg CO2 eq. for one metric ton of flat glass.
Light-density mineral wool board insulation
3.33 kg C02eq. for 1 m2 of mineral wool board insulation at RSI-1.
Heavy-density mineral wool board insulation
8.16 kg CO2 eq. for 1 m2 of mineral wool board insulation at RSI-1.

Table 1: Global warming potential limits for Buy Clean CA eligible materials. Current as of August 2022.
*Units are metric ton CO2 equivalent per metric ton of eligible material

The Buy Clean California Act applies to all major capital CSU projects worth more than $10 million and bid after July 1, 2022. Note that if any parts of an assembly meet the product category rule (PCR) for flat glass, the GWP limit applies.

Buy Clean CA impacts the CSU:
  • First legislative act to address the embodied carbon “loophole" through evaluation of carbon intensive materials
  • CSU requesting and requiring submission of EPDs lowers GHG emission products
  • CSU is leading the way on GHG construction materials requiring EPDs
  • Campuses are free to request EPDs for any other purchases
Buy Clean CA campus resources:
US EPA Scope 3 Inventory Guidance

“GHG Protocol Scope 3 Standard" utilizes the GHG protocol corporate value chain.  For more information, click here.

For additional information on Scope 3 emissions per US EPA guidelines: https://www.epa.gov/climateleadership/scope-3-inventory-guidance

Campus Climate Action Plans

Climate action plans are essential tools for assessing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and developing a plan to achieve emission reduction targets. Eleven CSU campuses have published a campus-level climate action plan, with most setting a goal to achieve carbon neutrality by effectively reducing their net GHG emissions to zero.

Campus carbon-neutrality target dates range from 2020 to 2050. Four additional campuses are expected to complete their climate action plans in 2019. Unlike the CSU’s systemwide GHG emission reduction goals, these commitments include other indirect emissions generally categorized as Scope 3.

Campuses with carbon-neutrality goals have committed to reducing emissions from these Scope 3 indirect sources, such as emissions from employee and student commutes, in addition to reducing their Scope 1 and 2 emissions in accordance with systemwide policy.

CSU Energy and Sustainability Companion Report

This report is organized around four key metrics:

  • Energy use intensity (BTU/GSF/year)
  • Utility cost (by gross square foot)
  • Gross institutional expenditure
  • Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions

These factors are influenced by campus location and climate, type of utility service, hours of operation, occupancy loads, maintenance practice and energy efficiency efforts. Since many of these factors fall outside a campus's control, this data is best used to compare an individual campus's performance over time. Any comparisons between campuses should consider these factors.


Energy-Efficiency Partnerships

The California State University partnered with the University of California and Southern California Edison on a Clean Energy Optimization Pilot, a first-of-its-kind greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction program.

The partnership is designed to reduce GHG emissions and save money for both the CSU and UC systems. The four-year, $20 million pilot will provide financial incentives for the UC and CSU systems to identify and implement sustainable actions they can take to reduce their GHG emissions to address and mitigate the impacts of climate change. Since there is no one-size-fits-all approach that will work for every campus, the universities will be provided with a framework of options that will enable them to meet specific goals.

Two CSU campuses were selected to participate in this pilot, CSU Dominguez Hills and Cal Poly Pomona. This approach will produce a variety of solutions that can be studied to understand the effectiveness for possible expansion of the program in the future.

The CSU has made significant progress toward meeting it's Sustainability Policy goals of improving energy efficiency, as highlighted in the systemwide baseline report. Energy efficiency remains the lowest-cost way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and to facilitate these projects the CSU has partnered with the UC and the investor-owned utilities (IOUs) in the UC/C​SU​/Utility Energy Efficiency Partnership. ​Through the partnership, local electric and natural gas utilities provide incentive funding to complete campus energy-efficiency projects.

Since 2004, the CSU has leveraged more than $30 million in incentive funding through the partnership to complete over $128 million worth of energy efficiency projects. These projects have included LED lighting upgrades, building retro-commissioning, installation of high-efficiency heating and cooling systems, and building envelope improvements. As a result of these energy conservation efforts and more efficient new buildings, the CSU has reduced systemwide energy use intensity by 11 percent since 2005-06.

Energy Procurement

The CSU has a comprehensive portfolio of energy procurement programs to source clean, reliable and cost-effective electricity and natural gas:

  • The Energy Contracts Oversight Board is comprised of campus subject matter experts and senior management to advise and guide ​supply side energy contracts, programs and strategy.
  • Direct access electricity and natural gas provide the CSU with cost-effective contracting options for electricity and natural gas delivered by local utilities.
  • The Solar and Battery Master Enabling Agreements​ provide a streamlined set of contracting templates to cost effectively increase the CSU’s distributed clean energy resources with the long-term goal of improving energy resilience through stand-by power supply and micro-grids.
Guidelines and Forms
Solar IV MEA Procedures Flowchart

Solar Battery Microgrid Training FAQ's
Solar Battery Microgrid Training 2020

Climate Action Grants and Loans Program

The Climate Action Grants and Loans Program supports CSU campuses in identifying and pursuing external funding to augment campus climate adaptation and resiliency investments. The CSU is committed to building public agency and community-based partnerships to foster regional collaboration to align investments with climate action strategies. ​A master agreement is available to provide the CSU with professional services in grant search and grant writing to pursue external funding for campus infrastructure and development projects that support climate adaptation and resiliency.

External Green Building ​​Rating Systems

Current CSU policy requires all new construction and major renovations to be capable of achieving a Silver level of certification under the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy an​d Environmental Design (LEED) rating system. The LEED rating system assesses buildings for sustainability criteria across many areas, including location and transportation, energy and water efficiency, materials, and indoor environmental quality.

While the current systemwide policy does not require projects to pursue LEED certification, several campuses do have such a requirement. Currently, seven CSU campuses require LEED certification for projects, five at the Silver level and two at the higher Gold level.