Energy & Sustainability


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 Sustainability section of Calstate.edu.

Here are some of the ways the CSU demonstrates its commitment to sustainable practices in all we do:

  • The Campus as a Living Lab program began as a collaboration between Academic and Student Affairs and Capital Planning, Design and Construction to use the physical plant of the university as a way for students to work on and solve real-world environmental challenges.
  • To improve the management of campus energy information, the CSU has implemented a systemwide Energy Information System (EIS)​ that centralizes and modernizes the process of reporting campus monthly utility use and costs. The EIS automates most energy bill collection and meter reading and includes error detection to improve accuracy. It also provides a dashboard of campus utility usage that allows students and the public to understand how their campus uses energy

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.


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:
  • Bicycle programs
  • Public transit programs
  • Vanpool and carpool programs
  • Carshare
  • Electric vehicle charging
CSU Transportation and Parking Policy
  • 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 policy framework includes a master enabling agreement and guidance documents to support campuses implementation of the policy requirements.
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.

The AB 262 Buy Clean California act requires Environmental Product Declarations (EPD) when purchasing certain construction materials (steel, glass, mineral wool insulation) for state building projects. This act states that the environmental effects of industrial products must be documented, and the global warming potential must be lower than industry average. AB 262 reduces climate change emissions by requiring businesses to purchase clean and efficient materials. Contract general conditions are a rider to every Public Works Contract.

CA AB262 Buy Clean Air Act helps reduce climate change pollution

Buy Clean California impacts the CSU:
  • First legislative act to address “Carbon Loophole” and Scope 4 emissions through evaluation of carbon intensive materials
  • 15 CSU campuses have signed carbon neutrality commitments (Scopes 1-3)
  • 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 California impacts the CSU:

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 its Sustainability Policy goals of improving energy efficiency. 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

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. The current roster of CSU LEED certified buildings is available here​.​

As the trend in higher education continues towards a more diverse menu of green building certifications, the CSU sees value in tracking tracks these campus decisions through the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education ‘s(AASHE) Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS)in the operations category credits regarding building design, construction, facilities operations, and campus energy consumption.

The CSU supports and is a major participant in STARS. Most campuses have experienced the benefits of membership with the AASHE and reporting campus sustainability benchmarking data through STARS, the online reporting tool.

This reporting methodology provides the university a transparent, publicly accessible and self-reported framework crossing all sectors of higher education. Observed benefits include:

  • International recognition for the CSU’s sustainability efforts
  • Generation of new ideas and solutions based on shared-model practices from peer institutions
  • Engagement among CSU communities
  • Creation of a benchmarking process for continuous improvement
  • Assistance to the campuses in their strategic planning and budgeting
  • Integration of sustainability into academic curricula