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Computers, televisions, and microwave ovens are just a few of the modern amenities we have come to expect as a society. Our comfortableness with these energy-exhausting devices has not come without both a monetary and an environmental cost. We have become almost unconscious of the everyday, unseen impact we are having on the world’s already dwindling resources.

Decreasing our impact as a campus will mean increasing efficiencies, decreasing use, and seeking alternative means of energy.

Responsible Parties

Steve Arndt is the Director of Facilities Management.
Evan Schwalbe is the manager of the Heating Plant on campus.
Wisconsin Public Service (WPS) is the University’s utility provider.
Chip Bircher is the NatureWise product manager at WPS

Energy Management at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh

The Heating Plant, located on the north side of the campus, provides steam to all campus buildings throughout the year for heat, hot water and cooking steam in the commons. The University has four boilers in place at the heating plant, two of the boilers operate on both low sulfur coal and natural gas and the others operate on natural gas and oil. The plant can also use diesel fuel, but this is only used in emergency situations. The first boiler was built in 1961 with two consecutive boilers built three years later and the last boiler was constructed in 1970. A typical boiler has a life span of between forty and seventy years and generates approximately 1000lbs of steam an hour. The Heating Plant also houses a central chiller that provides chilled water to campus building and cools three buildings on campus in the summer, with the other University buildings housing individual chillers making them more efficient.

Last school year the University consumed 3,049,350 Therms at a total cost of $ 1,186,490.04. This cost includes all of the pellet, coal, and natural gas purchases throughout the year. Each student consumed 271 Therms from the plant at a cost of $105.51 per year.

The University consumed a total of 31,464,000 KWH during the 2002-2003 school year resulting in a total cost of $ 1,339,655.46. This means that roughly 2,798 kwh were used by each student last school year. The per student cost of Electricity was $119.13. The following provides some detail on the University’s consumption trends both in terms of Heating and Electricity use. A more detailed analysis is available in the appendix.


Electrical Efficiency is the Electricity consumed in KWH divided by the total square footage of the respective building. The Efficiencies of the major university buildings for the 2002-2003 school year is displayed on the following graph. The three least efficient buildings are Reeve Memorial Union, Blackhawk Commons, and the Heating Plant. These findings are not surprising given the fact that both Reeve and Blackhawk provide meals for the majority of the campus and the Heating Plant provides all of the heat.

Electric Efficiency by Building 2002-2003

electric efficiency by building

The University’s Energy provider is Wisconsin Public Service (WPS). WPS is an investor-owned electric and gas utility serving more than 500,000 customers in northeastern and north-central Wisconsin, as well as an adjacent portion of Upper Michigan. WPS depends on ten Environmental Principles to guide their decisions and the affects they have on the world.

1. Protect the Environment
2. Use Natural Resources Responsibly
3. Reduce and Dispose of Waste
4. Use Energy Wisely
5. Reduce Risk
6. Market Safe Products and Services
7. Compensate for Damage
8. Disclose Environmental Information
9. Employ Environmental Directors or Managers
10. Annual Evaluation

A more detailed look at these principles is available in the appendix, but it is clear that they are placing a priority on evolving to an increasingly sustainable supplier of energy. They have programs in place to not only make themselves more efficient and responsible but work to provide their customers with these same opportunities.

Approximately 65% of the electricity used annually by Public Service customers comes from coal power plants, 15% from nuclear power, 4% from combustion turbines, hydroelectric and renewable resources, and the remaining 16% comes from power purchased from other utilities.

WPS Energy Sources

WPS energy sources

The preceding graph represents what a typical customer of WPS would expect, however UW Oshkosh has taken a step beyond this traditional consumption to help conserve the World’s finite resources. Just this year the University agreed to change their consumption patterns to include 3% more renewable resources, such as wind power and biomass. This purchase made the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh the largest purchaser of green energy in the state of Wisconsin and one of only 11 campuses nationwide. The University also joined the Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Partnership in May of 2003 when it received a Green Power Purchaser Award at the 2003 Wisconsin Green Power Workshop at Marquette University in Milwaukee.

This commitment however did not come without a cost; the University has invested $25,440 to purchase 960,000 kwh of green electricity per year through WPS’s NatureWise Program. The premium for the green energy is $.256 more per KWH, if converted into per-student cost, $2.30 per year. The NatureWise energy sources are 50% wind power from Glenmore Wind Facility, 40% landfill gas from Whitelaw Wisconsin, and 10% farm waste from Wholesome Dairy. The Annual Environmental Benefits reaped from the University’s commitment are as follows:

  • 1,053,000 pounds of coal (5 rail cars)
  • 1,843,000 pounds of CO2 (planting 249 acres of trees)
  • 4,000 pounds of NOx (reducing car travel by 53 trips around the world)
  • 7,100 pounds of SO2 (canceling the acid rain impact on many trees)

Since 1993 the University has participated in the Wisconsin Energy Initiative, a statewide program designed to increase energy efficiency and provide other economic and environmental benefits. All work performed is paid upfront by the contractor and payments are made through energy savings. Several Environmental Conservation Opportunities (ECO’s) have been performed on campus over the last ten years.

ECO #1

Lighting Retrofits (t-8’s and Electronic Ballasts)


ECO #2

Water Conservation (Low Flow Toilets)


ECO #3

DDC Conversions


ECO #4

Control Modifications (Pumps and converters)


ECO #5

Lighting Upgrades (Motion Sensors)


ECO #6

Stream Trap Repair/Replacement


The implementation of these ECO’s has saved the University approximately 563,017 KWH of electricity annually which translates to:

  • Reduced Carbon Dioxide emissions by 844,526 pounds per year
  • Reduced Sulfur Dioxide emissions by 3,265,499 grams per year
  • Reduced Nitrous Oxide emissions by 1,407,543 grams per year
  • Water savings of 24,483,000 gallons per year


For Administration

As a campus we need to create excitement around the ways that students can conserve energy, a good way of doing this is to create an Energy Star showcase dorm room or office. This showcase room could be toured by students, parents, and faculty and would make a great addition to the Universities Week of Welcome. Clik for more information.

Install more automated light controls with heat and movement sensors.

Educate the University population on energy conservation. This could involve putting up posters in the dormitories outlining the ways that students could conserve energy and why it is important. Also modify curriculum to incorporate conservation education whenever appropriate.

Direct any money saved from energy conservation into other energy conserving measures. Perhaps an award could be offered to students who come up with cost/energy saving ideas or initiatives in the future.

Take advantage of the Internet based presentations and training offered by Energy Star.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers many opportunities to both benchmark the Universities progress as well as potentially highlight our energy conservation efforts. www.energystar.gov

Create a policy that limits what students can bring to their dorms and require all appliances brought to meet Energyguide guidelines. Residence Life could work to reduce energy use in the residence halls by requiring energy conservation training for all new CA’s, which could be passed on by each CA who would provide training for the residents on their respective floors.
Support and fund Inter-dormitory Energy Conservation Contests on campus. During the 1990-1991 school year Harvard University initiated the Green Cup and saved the University approximately half a million dollars and energy consumption decreased by 25%. Many Universities have done the same since then.


For Faculty and Staff

Create a campaign through the computer science clubs and the labs on campus to inform students about computer use and energy consumption. Work to dispel popular myths like the belief that turning the computer off when not in use will damage the computer and that leaving a computer always on conserves more energy than turning it on and off. Check out one of the examples.

On sunny days, consider if it’s even necessary to turn on the lights. Or when given the option of more than one light switch, use as few as possible without compromising proper lighting.

Post signs or small stickers beside light switches in academic buildings and residences requesting people to turn off the lights when leaving the room.

For Students

If you notice a classroom or office not being used with the lights on, turn them off.

When working in the computer lab during low traffic periods, take the initiative to turn off some unused computers.

When not using your personal computer for a half hour or more, turn it off. Turn off the monitor whenever it is not in use. It saves money and increases the life of the monitor.

Report any improper use of electricity or any conservation ideas to facilities management

Turn off lights when not being used and use a lamp rather than lighting the entire room when working at a desk.

If you have heating controls in your room, use them responsibly. Do not crank the heat up and open a window.

Support and celebrate Sun Day, April 24th, a day for the awareness of energy conservation and renewable energy.

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Last update: November 7, 2003
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