Frequently Asked Questions
The NextGen Energy Program is a new public-private partnership initiative by the University of Maryland, College Park to secure long-term energy service for its campus. UMD envisions the NextGen Energy Program as a means for ensuring reliable, efficient and affordable energy while also serving as a platform for meeting UMD-wide sustainability goals for energy production and usage.
The NextGen Energy Program has three main objectives: meeting the university’s long-term energy requirements holistically, improving the long-term resiliency of energy services and seeking innovative ways to advance its carbon reduction goals, and responsibly stewarding our financial resources and taxpayer dollars. With decarbonization at the forefront of its mission, NextGen aligns with President Pines’ recently accelerated climate goal, which seeks to achieve campus-wide carbon neutrality by 2025.
Our current energy system provides heating, cooling and electric services through what’s known as “tri-generation.” This allows us to produce all three types of energy with the same process, minimizing lost or wasted energy.
The process begins with a natural gas-fired turbine that produces the bulk of electric energy for the campus. Rather than being lost, the heat that this turbine gives off is then captured in a heat recovery system to produce steam. This steam is then fed back into the system both as additional electric power and to provide chillers that provide cooling to campus.
Typical buildings require cooling, heating and electricity to operate. The over 250 buildings on campus are no different. In 1999, UMD partnered with a private sector energy company to provide heat for the entire campus and power over 60% of it through our own energy system. This has allowed us to provide the heat and power we need to continue our legacy of achievement and reduce the cost compared to what it would be on the open market.
The University of Maryland’s previous energy system partnership is drawing to a close, and as our current system continues to age, it becomes less reliable and efficient. Ensuring we have reliable energy services impacts every facet of campus life, including dorms, dining halls, classrooms, labs, the student union and the stadium, and renewing and modernizing our system is critical to driving the university’s success and supporting our mission of providing excellent teaching, research and service.
In order to upgrade the existing system while meeting its sustainability goals, the university conducted extensive research and evaluated a range of options for generating heat and power on campus moving forward. The resulting NextGen Energy Program proposes replacing our current system in a way that is consistent with our core values and best serves our community, now and in the future.
As we evaluated potential energy system options to define the Request for Proposal (RFP) base case for NextGen, we examined a variety of factors, such as the extent various energy system options would:
- support UMD’s carbon reduction and sustainability efforts,
- provide flexibility to incorporate energy efficiency programs and renewable technology,
- ensure responsible stewardship of our financial resources,
- meet future campus expansion needs,
- improve our energy system’s reliability and resiliency, and
- limit disruption on campus, among others.
The NextGen Energy Program will play a critical role in ensuring that everyone in the University of Maryland community can depend on reliable and resilient energy systems for decades to come. By renewing and modernizing our systems to drive the university’s success and support our mission of providing excellent teaching, research and service, we are also working to advance our commitment to addressing climate change through our Climate Action Plan and guaranteeing responsible stewardship of our resources, facilities and infrastructure.
Since the steam and electric distributions systems run throughout the campus, at some point, there may be some impact on movement around campus. Until UMD selects a private sector partner, it isn’t possible to say what the extent or timing of that impact may be. UMD anticipates requiring its partner to minimize disruption and to perform as much work as reasonably possible during breaks. As always, we will keep the campus apprised of all work impacting daily operations and be available to answer any questions.
One of the key purposes of the NextGen Energy Program is to provide reliable, resilient heating, cooling and electric services – something our aging system does not have the ability to do today. To do this, NextGen will not only replace our energy system but will also implement a rigorous maintenance program to prevent outages and incentivize the operator to minimize their occurrence. While this won’t eliminate all potential outages or disruptions, particularly those due to weather events and other outside circumstances, it will help reduce the number that campus experiences.
The university will continue to rely on Pepco to deliver a portion of its power to campus, and any outages caused by Pepco’s systems are beyond our control. You can learn more about how our energy system works here.
NextGen plays a critical role in ensuring that UMD can depend on a reliable and resilient energy system for decades to come. With decarbonization at the forefront of its mission, NextGen aligns with UMD's accelerated timeline for campus-wide carbon neutrality and will help to advance and surpass campus sustainability goals.
The NextGen Energy Program will be carbon neutral from its beginning. Initially, UMD will offset the energy system’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by purchasing offsets. However, the university's reliance on offsets will decrease as more efficient equipment and piping are installed and GHG emissions decline. The university also anticipates NextGen will reduce UMD’s water consumption by tens of millions of gallons each year by recycling condensed steam rather than discharging it into the storm and sanitary sewer systems. Since the condensate will already be heated, less energy will be required to convert it back into steam, which will further reduce GHG emissions.
Environmental sustainability will be a critical consideration when selecting a private partner for the NextGen Energy Program, and the university expects to benefit from the perspective of a company that has successfully implemented energy programs to address climate change challenges, including reducing GHG emissions.
The NextGen Energy Program is intended to be adaptable, allowing the University of Maryland to incorporate new, high-efficiency technologies, which, coupled with improvements to reduce the university’s overall energy consumption and generate energy more sustainably, will move the university toward meeting its carbon reduction goals.
The NextGen Energy Program fulfills the University of Maryland’s commitments and responsibilities under all current laws and regulations. One of the key features of the program is that it allows for the introduction of new, lower GHG emission and renewable energy sources in the future, which we are confident will ensure that the university can achieve clean energy requirements in Maryland and nationally.
The NextGen Energy Program will be funded by UMD’s existing utilities budget.
While we have conducted extensive cost analyses to ensure the NextGen Energy Program responsibly stewards the university’s financial resources, we will not be able to accurately predict specific costs for the program until we receive bids from the shortlisted proposers. Once we receive these bids from potential private sector partners, we will be better positioned to evaluate and determine costs as well as potential savings
Yes. As part of the NextGen Request for Proposal (RFP), competing firms will be asked to submit proposals that incorporate academic collaboration, including research opportunities, internships and scholarships for students. Once we receive proposals and identify our selected partner, we will know more details on what these opportunities will entail.
There will be multiple factors in place to ensure effective and successful operator performance. These include monitoring key performance indicators; prioritizing preventative maintenance, quality control and system renewal throughout the lifecycle of the program; implementing a UMD program team to serve as an oversight body; enhancing the collection and transparency of performance data and enforcing operator performance by reducing compensation if objectives aren’t met. These steps will help to ensure the success of the program and will strengthen the overall reliability and resiliency of our energy system for decades to come.
The NextGen Energy Program is meant to provide energy services for the University of Maryland for the next 30 years or longer. Components of our current steam generation and distribution infrastructure are nearing the end of their viable lifecycle and the university is operating on an interim program as we transition to NextGen. The university has received the necessary approvals for a public-private partnership and is in the process of identifying which private entity it will partner with. More detailed information about the planned timeline is available on the timeline page and will be updated as new information becomes available.
As the first step in continuing to provide campus energy services through a public-private partnership, the University of Maryland received approval from the State’s Board of Public Works. The university has selected a shortlist of energy companies as semi-finalists, who will be proposing improvements and innovations to campus heating, cooling and electric systems to increase their efficiency, reliability, resilience and sustainability, as well as plans for operating and maintaining these systems for 30 years or longer. We look forward to working alongside the State, the university community and other stakeholders as the process moves forward.
No. The NextGen Energy Program has continued to progress on schedule throughout the pandemic. We released an RFQ (Request for Qualifications) in Summer 2020 and then announced the shortlist of potential partners in Fall 2020. A Request for Proposals was released during Fall 2021. The university continues to target 2023 for the NextGen Energy Program's commencement.