Hydropower’s environmental impact is very variable. Whereas large scale dams can be intensely destructive to ecosystems and also produce significant methane emissions (learn more), the environmenal impacts and CO2 emissions related to small scale hydropower are very small. Electricity from hydropower also helps to meet peak demand because the fuel source can easily be stored and used as needed. Because the fuel source (water) is free, the costs of generation are known and can help an institution like Tufts to predict its future electricity costs.
Since 2006, Tufts receives its electricity from TransCanada, an electricity supplier based in Westborough, MA. Whereas on the university’s former contract Tufts received the system mix (the electricity came from whatever was available on the grid – coal, natural gas, oil, etc.), the university now has a dedicated electricity supply from hydroelectric plants on the Deerfield and Connecticut Rivers and a combined cycle natural gas power plant in Rhode Island.
With this new mix, the CO2 emissions related to Tufts electricity use will drop to 208 lbs/MWh, or to about 21% of the New England average (and the New England grid is already substantially cleaner than many other areas of the country).
This purchase, a combination of the efforts of the Tufts Energy Manager and TCI, help Tufts to nearly reach its commitment of meeting or beating the Kyoto Protocol goals of 7% reductions below 1990 emissions levels. Considering that emissions have grown from 14,971 metric tons carbon equivalent to 23,585 metric tons carbon equivalent even with a decade of efficiency upgrades, this is an impressive reduction.
To learn more about where Tufts’ electricity comes from, visit TransCanada’s website.