Ohio State University 50-year energy partnership showing early results

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By U2B Staff 

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Most universities are now understanding the value of sustainability and placing green living at the centre of their campus development. But The Ohio State University is seriously putting its money where its mouth is with a 50-year energy partnership that, just two years in, is already showing promising results.

In 2017, the university placed the operation of their utility systems for their Columbus Campus in the hands of ENGIE Buckeye operations on behalf of Ohio State Energy Partners (OSEP), and they haven’t looked back since.

The company took over Ohio State University’s systems that deliver heating, cooling and electricity. The partnership included a US$1 billion upfront payment to the university and a US$150 million commitment to support academic priorities.


The partnership has already achieved impressive milestones in their joint sustainability plan. Some notable changes to campus include:

  • Converting a total of 107,000 indoor light fixtures and 1,700 outdoor light fixtures to energy-efficient LED technology over the past two years.
  • Installing more than 375 smart metres to link to an ENGIE Digital Platform, allowing staff to monitor the utility system infrastructure throughout campus.
  • Making infrastructure improvements to support utility systems for facilities around the Oval, within the Arts District and for health sciences facilities.
  • Beginning to upgrade the energy systems in 14 buildings with a goal to improve their energy efficiency by more than 26 percent on average.

This is just the beginning, however, with the partnership setting ambitious targets to improve overall energy efficiency by at least 25 percent within 10 years and achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.

The next step to making this happen is the construction of a Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plant. The project will provide both heating and cooling as needed to the university’s core campus as well as its West Campus innovation district.


“The CHP facility generates electricity with combustion turbines and then utilises the exhaust heat to make steam and heat water, which Ohio State uses to heat campus buildings,” said Serdar Tufekci, OSEP CEO.

“The CHP facility will also include a central chiller plant, which will be the first one west of the Olentangy River to provide cooling in midwest campus and West Campus buildings. This combined capacity is both financially and environmentally responsible.”

Once it’s up and running the CHP will make a significant impact, cutting the university’s Columbus campus carbon emissions by up to 35 percent in the first full year of plant operation.

While the energy partnership between Ohio State and OSEP undoubtedly helps sustainability, it is also helping academically. The partnership supports endowed faculty positions, internships, other student scholarships at the energy advancement and innovation centre, a hub for technology commercialisation that will be developed as part of the West Campus innovation district.