Foto: George Stoica

STORY of THE GREEN ENERGY IN STUDENT HOUSES

If you are an enrolled student returning after the summer break, or if you just started your journey at the Arctic University of Norway, you are going to be pleased by discovering that a new policy has been introduced for managing the provision of electric energy to our student houses.

Text: Sarah Lupini

From now on, when you will switch on the stove to cook your dinner, when you’ll let some hot water run and of course when you will get your goodnight reading going, you can be sure that you are being as environmentally friendly as possible. All of the electricity used by the student houses is in fact certified to be 100% based on renewable sources. Students living in one of the houses managed by Norway’s Arctic Student Welfare organization are now actively contributing to the preservation of our global environmental heritage and to the reduction of CO2 emissions responsible of global warming.

While the biggest share of responsible management is still up to our wise use of resources on a daily base, much can be done by institutions, businesses and organizations to drive the demand for clean energy. The Student Welfare Organization has done its part, recently publishing a new power regime agreement signed with Bergen Energi AS, which states the following achievements:

  • 100% of power consumption in student residences, will definitely be from renewable sources
  • 100% of power consumption in student residences will therefore emit zero carbon footprint
  • The agreement is financially profitable for all parts, which makes it sustainable in the long run.
  • The agreement includes a philanthropic aspect, since additional support is conveyed to a special renewable energy project in Burmese schools.

Bergen Energi AS is a leading company in sustainable energy solutions, able to identify reliable clean energy power plants from which to buy the energy needed. The Student welfare organization has contacted Bergen Energi AS to have its student houses’ energy certified.

In fact, unless an organization is able to produce its own clean energy either installing renewable systems on its facilities or physically building a direct connection to a renewable power plant, the only option left to ensure the consumption of sole green energy is by obtaining a certificate able to assess and guarantee the origins of the energy that is purchased. Such assessment and certification operations are key to know that your energy comes from a clean energy provider. This happens because in Norway, usually, all the energy produced flows through a common grid, and only then it is supplied to the clients. Regardless of its origins, energy coming from renewable plants as well as traditional plants is «poured into the same bucket» at which point it is impossible to distinguish what energy comes from clean or unclean providers.

Since Samskipnaden wants to invest in green energy and gradually embrace a more environmentally responsible profile, they sought for a solution through the certification of their energy sources. Specifically, the agreement entails the purchase of energy certificates from hydropower plants in Aurland, Sogn and Fjordane, which are sold through the Northern Norwegian Ishavskraft.

Ishavskraft, a Troms-based energy supplier, other than providing the best offer among competitors, emerges also as the one with the best environmental performance among all Norwegian suppliers.

By buying energy certificates, Samskipnaden ensures that the organization’s money goes to the chosen plant that produces the exact quota of renewable energy they have purchased, in addition the purchase of certified renewable energy ensures that money is invested into improving the manufacturer’s plant in order to produce more renewable and environmentally friendly energy, supporting the demand for more renewable alternatives to fossil fuels.

Illustrasjon: George Stoica
Illustrasjon: George Stoica

Based on previous consumption, Norway’s Arctic Student Welfare organization is going to reduce the CO2 footprint by 10 tons annually. Electricity consumption in student residences will in fact have zero carbon footprint and will further contribute to the development of renewable energy solutions.

On top of everything, other than certifying the high quality renewable energy sourcing, Samskipnaden has decided to embrace a philanthropic initiative creating a direct impact on one of the many remote areas in the globe which are still off-grid Through the “Track my electricity” program the organization is donating 0.9 cents per kwh of energy consumed, which amounts to circa 180.000NOK of contribution per year, to a direct impact project located in the south-east asia, thus linking the arctic and the global north with the global south though clean energy.

The contribution is managed by the organization Solbakken and goes entirely to build solar panels to primary schools in the border area between Thailand and Burma who have, to date, no access to electricity.

With the many activities it is managing, which are scattered on different campuses and across different sectors, Norway’s Arctic Student Welfare Organization is in the perfect position to take a stand on environmental responsibility. The Studentsamskipnaden has chosen in fact to present an eco-friendly profile, highlighted by a strong commitment to promote an environmental friendly culture in support to the services they provide to students and employees at the Arctic Universities of Norway.

We have met Ellen Appelbom, leader of Samskipnaden at Tromsø campus, to discuss the organization commitment to a green agenda and to gain an overview of the initiatives the organisation is currently implementing, pushed by the young people’s interest in the sustainable management of our environment.

“There is a rising concern about the environment. Students are asking out loud what is that Samskipnaden does to minimize the environmental impact of the organization on the territory. 
They are pushing us to be smarter, greener and more responsible. It is a great motivation to see students come up and ask us not to do just good but to always do better”

As an organization providing services to students Samskipnaden has opted for seriously addressing the requests for a more responsible management of the carnet of services they provide on and off campus. They acknowledged the importance of embracing a sustainable agenda and in order to root such approach in tangible actions, they decided to sketch out an umbrella of different initiatives in many of their area of competence.

“We work on so many levels, flats, food, kindergartens, training centers, health and as an organization we are working also in multiple campuses, we know we can do more, just by looking at the amount of hot water and washing powders we use, for sure it is possible to do better! But we need to have a more integrated vision, a step at the time, one initiative at the time, and then we need to collect those initiatives and bind those efforts together in a better way than what we have done so far!”

The organization’s initiative about certified green energy is not the first and only, Samskipnaden in fact has succeeded in furnishing the new cafeteria MAT., at the Science and Technology building, with recycled and recyclable packaging for all the food that is served there, in order to promote a conscious approach to waste management.

In these days students will be also able to get a reusable thermocup for free, since the welfare organization has decided to make around 35000 of those cups available with no costs for students, in order to cut the use, and often abuse, of take away paper cups for tea and coffee. Since everyone knows that coffee for students and university employees is “a hug in a mug” with this initiative Samskipnaden is hoping to let coffee flow while reducing the amount of portable paper cup waste.

Of course initiatives like this represents a cost for the organization, and in general costs have been high for everyone trying to implement a green agenda on multiple levels, lately though, the market is experiencing a slow shift towards more affordable prices, due to a growing demand for sustainability and the availability of innovative solutions.

“Everything we do for students has an impact on the organization economy. In order to have money to invest in new initiatives or in improving the existing ones we need to have incomes and be able to distribute them fairly, but we know that our final customer are students so we are not happy to raise the prices, we know what it means for them. We are constantly trying to balance our efforts for a better quality in our services with our efforts for keeping the price of services fair, everything we do has to be responsible and sustainable also from an economic point of view otherwise it won’t be possible to offer more and better.”

Samskipnaden has made an ethical choice in endorsing an environmentally responsible and sustainable agenda knowing that this means dealing with higher costs in the short-term which are going to be rewarding in the long one. The reason of such choice might sound simple but sounds also honest: “In the end what we want most is for the students to have a good feeling, knowing that we are responsible and we do care”

From our side, we can just help them by setting the standard high and care as much as them about feeling the responsibility for our environment, both on and off campus, for this and all the academic years ahead.

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