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Stanford Energy System Innovations (SESI)

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Climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions is the greatest environmental and socioeconomic challenge and opportunity of our time. Stanford has accepted the challenge of our time and is raising the bar in efficiency to develop global solutions and implement them on campus.

Since the 1980s, Stanford has employed energy metering on all of its facilities to understand how and where energy is being used. For many years Stanford has employed best practices on both the supply and demand sides to reduce the cost and environmental impact of energy used to support the university mission of teaching, research, and public service. In October 2009, Stanford released a comprehensive and long-range Energy and Climate Action plan. Now in its third edition, the plan includes:

  • High-efficiency standards for new buildings;
  • continued efficiency improvements for existing buildings;
  • and the cutting-edge energy supply system known as the Stanford Energy System Innovations (SESI) project, which includes four innovations including the Central Energy Facility.

SESI represents a transformation of university energy supply from a 100% fossil-fuel-based combined heat and power plant to grid-sourced electricity and a more efficient electric heat recovery system. Although developed independently by Stanford from 2009 to 2011, SESI may be the first large-scale example in the world that employs the technology roadmap for building heating and cooling recommended by the International Energy Agency, which the United Nations Environment Programme also recently discussed in a comprehensive report for district-level implementation.

In fact, Stanford's Redwood City campus features a small-scale version of the Central Energy Facility, that highlights how other campuses or cities can implement the systems and technology of SESI.

This new system, along with Stanford’s solar power procurement, has reduced campus emissions by 68% from peak levels. In its first year of operation it saved 18% of campus potable water. With the second Stanford Solar Generating station up and running, Stanford's greenhouse gas emissions reduction reaches nearly 80% from peak levels in 2011.

Conceived in the Department of Sustainability and Energy Management (SEM) and implemented in collaboration with the Department of Project Management (DPM), the university architect’s office, Land Use and Environmental Planning, Zones Management, Buildings and Grounds Maintenance, and many other departments, the SESI program is an all-hands Land, Buildings & Real Estate engagement that will deliver immense benefits for Stanford University in decades to come.