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Climate Action Planning

The planning process that was used to create Stanford’s Energy and Climate Action Plan involved developing a vision, maintaining flexibility, and using a comprehensive, long-term approach to meet the challenge of reducing campus greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The goal was to find a balance between the critical needs of climate action and energy production and the requirements inherent in operating a large university. The planning process that resulted in the Energy and Climate Plan is described here in detail.

Guiding Principles

Holistic and Long-Term Approach

Stanford’s guiding principles for the Energy and Climate Plan are:

  • To recognize that emissions reduction may come from a number of areas in campus facilities design, construction, operations, and maintenance and will affect a diverse group of students, staff, and faculty across all academic and administrative departments, as well as the surrounding community.
  • To recognize that Stanford must operate within the broader context of energy infrastructure, emissions reduction, and regulation.
  • To recognize that both short- and long-term improvements are needed and that the long-term impact must be considered before decisions are made regarding existing buildings and infrastructure.


To provide leadership in climate change solutions using Stanford’s intellectual and financial resources, even if these efforts may differ from popular perceptions of how to pursue GHG reduction or are greater than what governmental regulations require.


To provide for both specific short- and long-term actions to achieve GHG goals and provide flexibility to accommodate new technologies and changes in climate science as they are developed.

A Balanced Approach to Finding Solutions

The GHG inventory and forecasting process revealed that the current and projected sources of Stanford’s energy use and GHG emissions required a balance of investment between energy demand and energy supply. Stanford’s plans for significant growth further amplify the need for special attention to the demand component required for new construction. To meet this challenge, Stanford’s Energy and Climate Plan provides an adept balance between three areas of the energy management equation:

Minimizing Energy Demand in New Buildings

Constructing new, high-performance buildings that minimize the impact of growth on campus energy systems and GHG emissions is a key strategy at Stanford. The Guidelines for Sustainable Buildings and Guidelines for Life Cycle Cost Analysis provide the framework for sustainability in campus growth.

Demand in Green Buildings

Reducing Energy Use in Existing Buildings

Since the 1980s, Stanford has employed energy metering of all its facilities to understand how and where energy is being used with the goal of reducing waste. While the university has pursued aggressive energy conservation for many years, a continuance and expansion of these programs is another key strategy of the Energy and Climate Plan. Building on Stanford’s substantial successes and culture of innovation and leadership, demand-side energy management will continue to be a critical driver in reducing campus emissions.

Stanford energy initiatives and energy-saving programs

Greening Energy Supply

Stanford has used natural gas-fired cogeneration for virtually all its energy since 1989. However, fossil fuel use in cogeneration is the largest contributor of GHG emissions for Stanford and development of new options that assure reliability, contain cost, and reduce GHG are an essential third strategy in the Energy and Climate Plan.

Stanford Energy System Innovations (SESI)

Energy and Climate Plan Process

Five key steps were followed to produce the Climate Action Plan.

Steps to the Climate Action Plan