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

Planning assumptions

The steering committee developed a set of planning assumptions to guide its work:

  • The MSU campus will consider both a central steam source for heating and cooling and distributed power generation. Future investment decisions (whether for replacement of current centralized steam generation capacity or installation of new distributed sources) will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
  • Demand for additional campus facilities and renovations of existing facilities will continue.
  • Policies, regulations and other constraints on energy production will be more restrictive in the future; a reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and other emissions will be necessary to meet future regulations.
  • Energy costs will continue to rise significantly faster than the historic general rate of inflation.
  • Portions of campus require that power be available 100% of the time for critical needs. Today, reliability for the power plant is defined as having a firm capacity of N-1, which is being able to meet the campus peak energy demand with the largest generating unit out of service.
  • The Energy Transition Plan covers the contiguous East Lansing campus, including properties served by the T.B. Simon Power Plant and other contiguous properties served by local utilities. A separate plan may be required for other properties outside of the contiguous campus.
  • The plan includes the impacts of MSU’s motor pool fleet, but not the impact of private vehicles on campus. A separate plan may be required to address energy and emissions from private vehicles.
  • Building infrastructure will continue to be managed with energy efficiency as a priority.
  • Education of the campus community will continue regarding the need to conserve energy.
  • Necessary incentives to encourage energy conservation by individual campus customers (behavior modification), and connections between actual energy use and cost will be established.
  • Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB) will not be powered by the T.B. Simon Power Plant

Integrated Planning Model

To best guide the plan, MSU contracted with an independent and highly regarded energy consulting firm to develop an integrated planning model specific to the university that could reasonably show the impacts of energy decisions.

The relationships between variables in the model are interrelated and complex. The model takes what we know about MSU’s energy system to forecast decision outcomes. The model allowed the committee to set realistic targets and understand the outcomes and trade-offs of particular strategies. It also ensured that the plan was built on solid research rather than beliefs and opinions of committee members.

The model compared different scenarios against a business-as-usual (BAU) case. The business-as-usual case assumes that the campus continues to grow at 2 million square feet per decade, requiring a $24 million capital investment in 2015 to comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 2010 Boiler MACT rule expected to impose stricter emissions limits and other requirements. It also assumes that as boilers in the power plant reach the end of their useful life, they will be replaced with natural gas turbines. The BAU case also provides estimates for energy savings due to energy conservation and efficiency programs.

The committee used the Integrated Energy Planning Model to explore supply and demand side strategies and develop an understanding of the trade-offs to achieve the most optimal outcomes. The goals above were chosen because the combination of strategies optimized campus renewable energy and minimized GHG emissions. At the same time, these goals delay the need for additional plant capacity, maintain energy reliability for the campus, stay below a tuition threshold, and minimize negative impacts on the environment and public health.

Although the model goes through 2050, the committee believed that trying to predict reasonable energy options and performance beyond 2030 would be difficult due to campus growth, rapidly emerging technologies and anticipated regulatory changes. During each major five-year review, there will be opportunities to review performance and options beyond 2030 as information becomes available and the model is revised based on changes in operations.