Skip to main content
Michigan State UniversityMichigan State UniversityInfrastructure Planning and Facilities

Creating the Plan

Developing a long-range energy plan for MSU needed to be deliberate, diverse and dynamic. It needed to:

  1. Be built on solid research and MSU-specific data produced by the university’s world-class faculty and researchers, and external energy experts.
  2. Include robust discussion and inclusion of many viewpoints.
  3. Allow for future changes in emerging technologies and regulations, available resources, and the latest research.

The formal process to establish the Energy Transition Plan began in 2010, with staff and administrators collecting data, creating educational and financial models, and commissioning an independent study to evaluate MSU’s energy infrastructure and emerging technologies. Consultant Black and Veatch assessed MSU’s power infrastructure and emerging technologies, and consultant Energy Strategies, LLC developed a model that integrated energy options with financial, environmental, health, capacity and efficiency performance indicators.

By January 2011, an Energy Transition Plan Steering Committee was created and charged with the goal of creating the new energy plan. MSU Administration believed that the solution was likely moving toward renewable energy, and as such the plan should take steps to prepare MSU for a renewable energy future. The committee included a diverse group of 24 faculty, staff and students representing a variety of viewpoints and expertise. MSU Administration reached out to students involved in the MSU Beyond Coal and Greenpeace student groups, as well as the broader student population and surrounding community to ensure robust discussion and inclusion of many viewpoints. Simultaneously, an external advisory group comprised of industry experts reviewed the plan at critical steps to ensure its viability.

The committee integrated information from the consultants and internal researchers with the previously developed background information on MSU’s current energy infrastructure, and projected demand growth by using a comprehensive modeling software program developed to analyze potential future scenarios.

After establishing assumptions, the committee brainstormed strategies to reduce energy use, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and health effects. The strategies were modeled and through this process, physical goals were established. These goals were presented to the MSU community and surrounding communities for public input. In addition, MSU sought external opinions from those with experience in energy planning for higher education, energy regulation, and renewable energy technology and markets.

Other viewpoints were sought through aggressive outreach, including a series of 10 public modeling sessions to engage the community, seven town hall meetings to share the goals and strategies and allow for feedback, and through online comment forms available on a website dedicated for this project. In all, 110 people attended the facilitated educational modeling sessions where they were able to use an interactive program to design the MSU energy system of the future and then answer questions to determine which factors were most important to them. Another 157 people attended the town hall forums, and the committee also received feedback on the plan through the receipt of seven email forms and five comment cards. This feedback allowed the committee to add to and refine the goals and strategies.

Transparency and inclusion in all aspects of the planning process were key factors in the plan’s development and were achieved through these outreach tools as well as documenting the process online, posting of all steering committee meeting notes online, and allowing people the opportunity to provide feedback at all points during the process.

The three-pronged plan presented in this report outlines strategies for physical changes of energy sources and modifications, leadership in outreach and engagement, and more cutting edge research to guide the university and world in energy transitions. It does so while accounting for the five main challenges of capacity, cost, reliability, health, and environment.

The Energy Transition Plan will guide future energy decisions for the university through 2030, much the way that the 2020 Campus Master Plan has guided the development of campus. Like the Campus Master Plan, the Energy Transition Plan will be reviewed, updated and adjusted every five years extending the life of this plan beyond 2030.