Future Roadmap for Sustainability in Energy Generation at Notre Dame

Michael Kennedy

Goal: To present a roadmap for sustainable energy use at the University of Notre Dame that addresses the following question: How might the future of energy generation at Norte Dame be impacted by changes and uncertainties related to production of natural gas and coal, regulatory landscapes, alternative energy sources, and Smart Grid technology?

Energy Consumption at Notre Dame
In general, energy consumption is determined in two ways: the type of energy inputs and the quantity of energy consumed. The Utilities Department at Notre Dame determines the exact fuel mix the University chooses to burn and the campus community determines the amount of energy that is consumed. From a business perspective, energy input decision-making is a product of complex strategy. As a business with budget constraints, pressure from high demand on campus, and pressing conservation and sustainability goals, the Utilities Department must make difficult choices that strike balances between sustainability initiatives and economic barriers.

Forces of Change
These outside forces of change and uncertainties in the energy industry are likely to impact the future roadmap for sustainability in energy generation at Notre Dame.

  1. Hydraulic Fracturing – Changing Regulatory Landscape
    Impact on Notre Dame: 
    Heightened regulation and strict control over fracking procedures could raise the retail price of natural gas if drillers and operators are forced to adhere to costly modification to their process. On the one hand, this would be a detriment to Notre Dame’s operations because it might cause the University to revert back to using primarily coal. However, it could spur further investments in alternative energy out of necessity if natural gas becomes too costly.
  2. International Natural Gas Demand – Natural Gas Globalization
    Impact on Notre Dame: 
    Over the past few years, Notre Dame has begun to heavily rely on natural gas in its energy generation mix. If the U.S. becomes a net exporter of natural gas several different outcomes could arise. Even without increased exports, the price of natural gas will rise in the long run as domestic reserves are depleted and supply shortens. Changes in domestic natural gas price levels would influence the University’s decision-making in choosing its fuel inputs for the future.
  3. Carbon Constraints – The Future of Coal
    Impact on Notre Dame: 
    Since the University currently has access to significant reserves of cheap coal and infrastructure geared, in part, toward the use of coal for power generation, a breakthrough in carbon capture sequestration (CCS) technology would most likely be quite beneficial. Given the University’s 2030 Challenge and Long Range Plan for a more sustainable future, a clean and secure option for coal would provide significant advantages.
  4. Alternative Energy
    Impact on Notre Dame: 
    The University currently generates a relatively small amount of energy from wind and solar sources. Because of the large amount of uncertainty surrounding these sources, however, Notre Dame has held back from major investments supporting the necessary infrastructure and capacity.
  5. Smart Grid – Smart Consumption
    Impact on Notre Dame: 
    This technology revolution would most likely have huge impacts on the University. Since Notre Dame is a major consumer of energy, the “smart meter” component of smart grid technology would presumably revolutionize energy management at the University.