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Natural Gas Powers OSU to a Sustainable Future

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  • Jul 17, 2020

Leveraging the region’s abundant natural gas and energy resources, The Ohio State University is moving forward with plans that will advance its sustainability initiatives and achieve environmental progress with a new natural gas-fired power plant.

In 2008, the university released its Resource Stewardship Goals, which included achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 and a 25 percent energy efficiency improvement on campus within the next decade. Central to the school’s strategy, the OSU Climate Action Plan, is the construction of a 105.5 MW natural gas-fueled combined heat and power plant, which will be used to power, heat and cool parts of the main campus.

Ohio State is one of many schools, hospitals, and cities turning to natural gas for their energy needs, as the push to integrate more low-carbon fuel sources in the energy mix heightens. And it’s working. The International Energy Agency credited the United States as leading the world in energy-related CO2 emission reductions while U.S. consumption and production of natural gas soared.

In addition to reducing costs and enhancing energy efficiency improvements, OSU’s power plant is expected to cut the campus’ carbon emissions by 35 percent within the first year of its operations. The transition to this energy source will also make OSU more resilient by generating its own power through a sustainable closed-loop system.

But the environment isn’t the only thing that’s benefiting from this move – the partnership forged to operate the plant is investing millions in the school to enhance education and community support initiatives.

Three years ago, Ohio State entered into an agreement with ENGIE Buckeye Operations, part of the Ohio State Energy Partners, to operate and maintain the school’s energy needs. That agreement resulted in $1.1 billion to OSU upfront and a $150 million commitment from partners to support educational needs and promote energy innovation and technology. As an article in the school paper states:

“Beyond the sustainability benefits of the comprehensive energy management partnership, Ohio State has invested more than $800 million of the proceeds in endowments that provide ongoing support for student scholarships, faculty excellence and other priorities.”

These investments are part of the larger $15 billion Ohio has witnessed in natural gas power plant investments in recent years.

Yet despite the significant environmental, social and economic advantages the natural gas plant will deliver, industry opponents are doing everything they can to put an end to the use of clean, reliable, and affordable natural gas.

The Sierra Club’s Ohio chapter is particularly vocal about its opposition to the plant, stating it will “just add more local generation and more local pollution” to Columbus.

Elena Irwin, director of Ohio State’s Sustainability Institute, said that while they did consider using renewable energy resources, it was not “economically feasible,” further demonstrating the falsehoods behind climate activists’ arguments that wind and solar alone are cost-efficient sources of energy.

Ohio’s position as the fifth-largest producer of natural gas and 10th-largest electricity generating state in the country makes the Buckeye State a perfect location for future energy investments that bring air quality progress, energy savings, and family-sustaining career opportunities with them. Should Ohio – and America – want to continue down a path of environmental excellence and rebuild a strong economy, natural gas needs to play a large role.

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