I was talking to the folks at our campus sustainability office recently, and they were extolling the virtues of Green Revolving Funds. The idea is ridiculously simple, but turns out to be an important weapon in making sure that the savings from  energy efficiency don’t just disappear back into the black hole of University operational budgets. Once the fund is set up, it provides money for the capital costs of energy efficiency projects, so that they don’t have to compete with other kinds of projects for scarce capital. The money saved from reduced utility bills is then ploughed back into the fund to support more such projects. And the beauty of the arrangement is that you don’t then have to go through endless bureaucracy to get new projects going. According to wikipedia, this arrangement is increasingly common across university campuses in the US and Canada.

So I’m delighted to see the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) is proposing a revolving fund for this too. Here’s the motion to be put to the TDSB’s Operations and Facilities Management Committee next week. Note the numbers in there about savings already realised:

Motion – Environmental Legacy Fund

Whereas in February 2010, the Board approved the Go Green: Climate Change Action Plan that includes the establishment of an Environmental Advisory Committee and the Environmental Legacy Fund;

Whereas the current balance of the Environmental Legacy Fund includes revenues from the sale of carbon credits accrued through energy efficiency projects and from Feed-in-Tariff payments accruing from nine Ministry-funded solar electricity projects;

Whereas energy efficiency retrofit projects completed since 1990/91 have resulted in an estimated 33.9% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to date and lowered the TDSB’s annual operating costs significantly, saving the Board a $22.43 million in 2010/11 alone; and

Whereas significant energy efficiency and renewable energy opportunities remain available to the TDSB which can provide robust annual operational savings, new revenue streams as well as other benefits including increasing the comfort and health of the Board’s learning spaces;

Therefore, the Environmental Advisory Committee recommends that:

  1. The Environmental Legacy Fund be utilized in a manner that advances projects that directly and indirectly reduce the Board’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and lower the TDSB’s long-term operating costs;
  2. The Environmental Legacy Fund be structured and operated as a revolving fund;
  3. The Environmental Legacy Fund be replenished and  augmented from energy cost savings achieved, incentives and grant revenues secured for energy retrofit projects and renewable energy projects, and an appropriate level of renewable energy revenue as determined by the Board.,
  4. The TDSB establish criteria for how and how much of the Environmental Legacy Fund can be used to advance environmental initiatives that have demonstrated GHG reduction benefits but may not provide a short-term financial return and opportunity for replenishing the Fund.
  5. To ensure transparency and document success, the Board issue an annual financial statement, on the Environmental Legacy Fund along with a report on the energy and GHG savings attributable to projects financed by the Fund.

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