Students gather signatures to petition for sustainable energy


Published: Tuesday, January 23, 2007 at 9:44 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 23, 2007 at 9:44 a.m.

University of Florida students could pay a tuition increase of 50 cents per credit hour to support sustainable energy practices on campus if a student group is successful.

Gators for a Sustainable Campus has acquired 677 signatures since early fall in its campaign to get a referendum on the February Student Government ballot.

"The goal of the referendum is not only to get money for sustainable energy on campus but also to give students a sense that they have an investment in the future and that their money will go toward something that will really make a difference," said Brendan Moore, president of the group.

For students taking 15 hours, the fee would amount to about $7.50 a semester. Moore said he estimates the per-person increase in tuition would raise about $645,000 each year.

Moore said he spoke with John Lawson, utility manager for UF's Physical Plant division, about some proposed changes to the campus to save energy. Among the projects they discussed was the installation of solar panels atop a parking garage and on vending machines, which Moore said waste a lot of unnecessary energy because of constant use.

Lawson said one solar-powered vending machine would cost about $15,000 after taking into account a $4 per kilowatt-used rebate from the state of Florida to promote alternative energy.

He also said that at least one private donor has expressed interest in helping fund the effort. Should the referendum pass, it still would need support by UF's board of trustees, the state Board of Governors, the state Legislature and the governor.

Moore said the money would also go toward the purchase of renewable energy certificates, or RECs, from a "green" energy company, such as Sterling Planet. Certificates of this kind ensure a certain percentage of renewable energy is put into the grid in order to offset non-renewable energy used on campus, he said.

"RECs are an easy, affordable way to clear the air, offsetting carbon dioxide and other emissions from regular power plants that burn fossil fuels," according to Sterling Planet's Web site.

Although only 500 signatures were required, Moore said he sought more because, "When people sign it, they're more likely to think about it, to talk about it and do research when the election actually comes."

For more information on Gators for a Sustainable Campus and renewable energy, visit the group's Web site at http://www.sustainablegators.org.

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