Climate Neutrality Leadership Initiative / Zero Net Energy

The Leading the Way to Climate Neutrality Initiative will be a first-of-its-kind partnership among faculty, students, staff and industry to make UC Davis a zero-carbon campus by 2025. This transdisciplinary, universitywide initiative will accelerate efforts to pilot, finance and implement carbon reduction projects, the savings from which will be reinvested. Through project-based learning opportunities, faculty, students and staff will collaboratively test and operationalize cutting-edge research and translate this work to the public. In the process, we will spearhead a feasible carbon neutrality model for large institutions worldwide and provide the next generation of energy leaders with the knowledge and hands-on skills to foster global resilience to climate change. The initiative was named as one of the top 13 Big Ideas at UC Davis as part of the university’s second comprehensive fundraising program.


Zero Net Energy

Recent Path to Zero Net Energy projects are described below. Please refer to the library for earlier projects.

Projects of Spring 2016:

  • Financing the conversion of steam district heating to hot water at UC Davis

This project contrasted the estimated cost of steam-to-hot water conversion to the business-as-usual case, considering maintenance and energy use. The conversion includes implementation of heat recovery chillers for cogeneration of cooling and heating. Over a 30-year analysis period and based on justifiable assumptions used in the financial model, the conversion has an NPV of $21M and MIRR of 8%. Financing options include public-private joint venture, energy savings performance contracts, energy services agreements, student fees and revolving loan funds.

Poster: Steam-to-Hot Water Conversion, Financing


  • Building level analysis of steam heating vs hot water heating

This project evaluated the potential energy savings at the building level due to conversion from steam to a hot water heating system. Two buildings were selected: Student Community Center (SCC) containing space heating and domestic hot water (DHW) loads and Robbins Hall containing space heating, DHW and process (laboratory) loads. Calculations suggests savings of 20% and 48% over the baseline for Robbins Hall and SCC, respectively, which are primarily due to lower distribution losses and virtually negligible condensate loss.

Poster: Steam-to-Hot Water Conversion, Building Analysis


  • Commuting emissions of UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento

This project evaluates the effectiveness of the Green Commuting Program on commuting emissions reductions implemented at the UCD Sacramento Medical Center. The Program promotes commuting by ZipCar, campus shuttles, bike, walk and vehicle pooling. Fuel economy of personal transport was obtained from a sample of 200 vehicles at the UCDMC parking lots. MapQuest data was used to obtain driving distances from the UCDMC to the zip codes of residences. Total communitng emissions reductions due to the program was estimated at 2.5% of the baseline of 27 Mkg CO2. Additional recommendations for further actions includes increasing the cost of personal transport parking and increasing bike posts and the number of shuttle stops.

Poster: UCD Medical Center Commuting Emissions

  • Comparative performance of radiant versus fan coil cooling systems at Sproul Hall

This project evaluates the occupant comfort and energy use of radiant cooling and heating systems over convention fan coils in Sproul Hall at UC Davis. Monitored equipment data from eight rooms (half with radiant and half with fan coils) and surveys from occupants were collected and analyzed. The radiant system was found to provide a comparable level of comfort to the fan coils. Further work includes collection of humidity and equipment power draw data in order to provide better insight into energy uses of the each system.

Poster: Sproul Hall Radiant Heating and Cooling

  • Modeling campus sustainability alternatives using EnergyPRO

This project evaluated three renewable energy alternatives for UC Davis utilizing the modeling program EnergyPRO. Alternatives includes 1) displacing heating supply by natural gas boilers with solar thermal, 2) displacing heating and cooling supply by natural gas boilers and electric chillers with heat recovery chillers for thermal cogeneration, 3) displacing electricity use using a biomass power plant. Results suggest that solar thermal should be considered in the near future since it can reduce natural gas use for heating by 54-89%.

Poster: Renewable Alternatives at UCD


  • Financing strategies for University of California carbon neutrality

This project aimed at creating a tool and associated strategies for financing the UC Davis climate action plan projects with a focus towards building a sustainable green revolving fund. Funding sources includes endowments, donations and grants, utility rebates, capital budgets, cost savings from efficiency projects and student fees. Recommended action includes the establishment of a green revolving fund with staff, guidelines and approval process for projects.

Poster: Financing Strategies for Climate Projects


Projects of Spring 2015:

  • Charging Into The Future: A UC Davis Bus Fleet Transportation Roadmap

Charging into the Future, UnitransThe objective of this work was to help inform the UC Davis bus service’s (Unitrans) plan to reduce operating costs and greenhouse gas emissions through a review current electric bus technology, as well as cost and emissions analyses of electric versus CNG buses. Unitrans has a fleet of 49 buses – 44 of which are run on compressed natural gas (CNG). In the next 3 years, 13 buses are being considered for replacement with electric buses. Results indicate that each electric bus can reduce 33 metric tons of CO2 equivalent annually and save roughly $213,000 in lifetime operating cost of the vehicle relative to a CNG bus.

Poster: Charging into the Future, Unitrans

  • Consumer Energy Behavior On Thermostat Use: A Case Study of UC Davis Freshman Dormitories

CEFSThe objective of this work was to identify any behaviour trends of a freshman dormitory complex in UC Davis with respect to thermostat use and indoor and outdoor ambient conditions. Methodology includes analysis of thermostat and occupancy data and administration of surveys.

Survey results indicated that only 23% of students knew how to properly utilize their thermostats, but over 50% non-energy consumptive behaviour when they are thermally uncomfortable by putting in extra layer of clothing or opening the windows. The thermostat user setpoint temperature was only able to predict 62% of variability in indoor temperature, based on a simple linear regression. The outdoor temperature was able to to predict 37-56% of the variability in indoor temperature, depending on the dormitory.

Poster: Campus Feedback

  •  Energy Efficiency Opportunities at the Tri Co-Operatives

Tri CoopThe objective of this work was to identify and analyze potential energy conservation measures at a cooperative housing community managed by the Solar Community Housing Association. Identified measures includes LED lighting upgrades, thermostat setback and addition of blinds, curtains and envelop insulation. Analysis was performed via a whole building simulation using the eQuest software. An estimated 15% of annual electrical energy use was estimated, which correspond to over 400 kWh/year of electrical energy savings.

Poster: Tri Co-Ops

  • Thermoelectric Heat Recovery: An On-Campus Case Study

TEGThe objective of this study was to identify applications for thermoelectric heat recovery (THR) in the UC Davis campus. THR describes a method of low-grade waste heat recovery to generate electricity via semiconductors and temperature differences. Potential locations for recovery were ranked based on accessibility of heat source, visibility of project, cost, locality of power demand and commercial potential. Results indicate that the most feasible applications of THR are in the campus fleet and in the campus pilot brewery due to sufficient enough temperature gradient, local demand for electrical power and commercial potential.

Poster: UC Davis Thermoelectrics

  • Energy Modeling of the 2015 UC Davis Solar Decathlon Home


The objective of this project was to assist the UC Davis Solar Decathlon team by performing an energy modeling of the designed building which is an entrant in a US Department of Energy competition. Specific tasks of the project include building modeling in OpenStudio and energy use simulation in EnergyPlus. Results of the simulation will help inform the Decathlon team on the energy use of the building and the necessity of additional design changes.

Poster: 2015 Solar Decathlon


  •  Hydropower Solutions for Full and By Farms


The objective of this work was to evaluate the feasibility of hydropower for a farm in Essex, New York. The scope of the project involved analyzing the two spring wells to the west of the farm as well as the Boquet River to the east, along with their legal and economic ramifications. Iinstallation of a diversion spillway on the river which diverts the water was found to be the most cost effective hydropower solution at $0.12/kWh levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) while generating 3.5 kWh per month of electrical energy and satisfying legal requirements. The LCOE of hydropower from the wells was estimated at $0.24/kWh which is economically infeasible when compared to the existing grid electricity of $0.11/kWh.

Poster: Hydropower Full and By Farms