PA Universities Top Green Energy Buying List

The top three green energy buyers in higher education are all in Pennsylvania. Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh is one of the three -- it's taken a big leap forward in a federal ranking. The Allegheny Front's Kate Malongowski has more.

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OPEN: The top three green energy buyers in higher education are all in Pennsylvania. Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh is one of the three -- it's taken a big leap forward in a federal ranking. The Allegheny Front's Kate Malongowski has more.

MALONGOWSKI: The Environmental Protection Agency ranks universities quarterly based on how many energy credits they buy from renewable sources, such as wind and solar power. Carnegie Mellon went from 14th to 2nd as a leading university purchaser in the latest ranking.

Carnegie Mellon shot up on the list because it purchased more credits from green energy companies outside the region.

University Engineer Marty Altshul, who's in charge of the green power purchasing initiatives, says the local windmill energy supplies are limited, and therefore more costly.

ALTSHUL: It was more important for us to get a larger percent of our energy from renewable sources than to try and encourage those renewable sources to be developed within Pennsylvania.

They are now able to supply the CMU campus with 75 percent energy from windmills, rather than 23 percent only months earlier. According to the U.S. EPA, Carnegie Mellonís current green power purchase of nearly 87 million killowatt hours for 2010 is the equivalent amount of electricity needed to power more than eight-thousand American homes annually.

But Altshul says purchasing the green credits doesn't save money in the long run, which he adds that isn't what people would expect.

ALTSHUL: It's a fairly young industry, and it's one that doesn't have a lot of infrastructure in place. At this point in time, coal and gas sources are less expensive than wind is.

On the other hand, CMU Environmental Coordinator Barb Kviz says purchasing green energy is "the right thing to do", and it's more than just the money.

KVIZ: We feel as though we pay a premium for this that we are investing in the future of the renewable power industry.

And while some criticize the fact that there is no way to prove that companies who purchase green energy actually receive it, Altshul says they pay extra to buy green energy that is "Green E Certified" by the industry. (In this case, it's Community Energy) He says this ensures that energy companies don't sell their energy twice and all energy is properly allotted.

The other keystone state schools in the green energy purchase listings are The University of Pennsylvania, which is first. Penn State is ranked third.

For the Allegheny Front, I'm Kate Malongowski.