Rice has taken a big bite out of its carbon footprint for 2015 with a landmark energy agreement it recently signed with the power company MP2 Energy.
The one-year agreement will provide approximately 7 percent of the university’s purchased electricity from solar power. The solar energy will come from First Solar Inc.’s Barilla Solar Project, which produces 22 megawatts of energy and is located in Pecos County, Texas. Moreover, Rice will be paying the same rates for solar energy, which historically has been much more expensive, as it would for traditional gas- or coal-generated energy.
“We were able to specifically procure renewable energy — in this case, electricity generated from solar arrays in West Texas — with no increase in cost,” said Richard Johnson ’92, director of Rice’s Administrative Center for Sustainability and Energy Management.
According to MP2 Energy, this is the first time off-site solar power is being delivered to a commercial entity on a short-term contract, without state or utility incentives in a deregulated market.
Johnson credits Rice’s Eric Valentine, energy manager, and Mark Gardner, manager of energy strategy and utility program development, for their persistence in pursuing this opportunity.
He said they recognized that if Rice switched to a procurement model in which the university bought its electricity in hourly increments with all the components of the pricing presented transparently — rather than daytime, nighttime and weekend blocks that mask the true market price of electricity — Rice could better manage its energy consumption and spending. “Finding a retail electric provider that offered such a procurement model was not easy, but we found an excellent partner in MP2 Energy,” Johnson said.
“This deal demonstrates that solar is truly becoming competitive in the most competitive electricity market in the U.S.,” said Jeff Starcher, CEO of MP2 Energy. “We applaud Rice for taking a leadership role in embracing true renewable energy.”
Last year Rice announced its commitment to become climate-neutral by 2038, and green-power procurement was among the strategies to achieve the goal of reducing the university’s emissions.