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Energy, Efficiency, and Emissions

Caltech operates its own power plant to generate electricity and generally exports more electricity than it imports. Meanwhile, consumption of electricity on campus has stabilized over the long term and decreased on a per square foot basis as the campus has grown. A recent announcement on decarbonization plans for energy supply and distribution will fundamentally change the campus.

Energy Production and Decarbonization

Under a plan approved by President Thomas F. Rosenbaum in late 2023, Caltech intends to source largely carbon-free electricity. Simultaneously, a detailed engineering study will evaluate a potential transition from natural gas to electricity to power the campus heating system. That transition and the carbon-free-power purchase could reduce by more than 85 percent the greenhouse gas emissions produced on campus and in the electricity Caltech buys.

Energy Efficiency

In a collaborative effort with 32 other leading U.S. institutions, Caltech helped launch the Billion Dollar Green Challenge, an initiative to invest a cumulative total of one billion dollars to fund energy-efficiency upgrades on campuses across the country. Caltech was the first institution to make the commitment to use a self-managed green revolving fund for sustainability improvements as part of the challenge.

Caltech's green revolving loan fund is called the Caltech Energy Conservation Investment Program (CECIP). CECIP is the process by which capital to implement energy conservation measures is borrowed from the endowment and, through a rigorous system of measurement and verification, savings are moved from the utility budget back to the endowment.

CECIP has contributed to campus utility savings of nearly $20 million over the past decade.

A person smiles into a camera, head and upper chest visible against a blurred background of architectural glass, with trees and plants reflected in it..
Research Leadership: Managed Electric Vehicle Charging Technology

Professor Steven Low’s NetLab research laboratory invented smart technology for charging many electric vehicles simultaneously while optimizing power flow. Low's graduate student Zach Lee commercialized the technology through startup PowerFlex Systems, working with Hilton, Google, JPL, and Caltech. PowerFlex was acquired in 2019 by EDF Renewables North America. Low is Caltech's Frank J. Gilloon Professor of Computing and Mathematical Sciences and Electrical Engineering.

Image, top of page: Caltech's thousands of solar panels provide a total of about 2 megawatts of electricity. The panels are cleaned regularly, as dirty panels produce up to 20 percent less energy.