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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. The NextGen Energy Program will ensure efficient and affordable energy and will also serve as a platform to meet UMD-wide sustainability goals for energy production and usage.

NextGen aligns with President Pines’ accelerated climate goal, which seeks to fossil fuel-free campus energy system by 2035. 

The NextGen Energy Program has three main objectives:

  • Meeting the university’s long-term energy requirements holistically
  • Improving UMD’s energy services and seeking innovative ways to advance its carbon reduction goals
  • Being a responsible steward of our financial resources and taxpayer dollars

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 power chillers that provide cooling to campus.

Typical buildings require heating, cooling and electricity to operate. The over 250 buildings on campus are no different. Energy systems are critical to the success of the university. By producing our own energy on campus, the university can better manage energy costs and environmental concerns by directly providing heating, cooling and electric power to support campus operations. 

The University of Maryland’s previous energy system partnership is ending, and our current system has become less efficient and dependable as it continues to age. Ensuring we have dependable 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) 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 dependability
  • Limit disruption on campus

The NextGen Energy Program will play a critical role in improving efficiency to ensure that everyone in the University of Maryland community can depend on our energy systems for decades to come. 

By renewing and modernizing our systems to drive the university’s success and support our mission of providing excellence in teaching, research and service, we are also working to advance the university’s environmental commitment, guaranteeing responsible stewardship of our resources, facilities and infrastructure to achieve President Pines’ commitment to achieve a fossil fuel-free energy system by 2035, consistent with the state of Maryland’s climate goals.

The impact of this program and its construction on students is of utmost importance to us. We realize there have been several major projects in recent years that have caused significant disruptions on campus. We do not want to add to this issue. Since the steam and electric distributions systems run throughout the campus, at some point, there may be some impact on movement around campus. 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 dependable and efficient 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 equipment failures and incentivize the operator to minimize their occurrence.

While this won’t eliminate all potential equipment failures or disruptions, it will help reduce the number that the campus experiences. It’s important to keep in mind that the NextGen Energy Program will only provide a portion of UMD’s electricity needs. The university relies and will continue to rely on electricity delivered by Pepco. Any outages caused by their systems are beyond our control.

NextGen will serve as one of the key mechanisms that will allow the university to meet and surpass its sustainability goals, including our goal of achieving a fossil fuel-free energy system by 2035.

The NextGen Energy Program will be carbon neutral from the outset. Initially, UMD will offset the energy system’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by purchasing carbon 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.

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 will be funded by UMD’s existing utilities budget.

The NextGen Energy Program is designed to be consistent with our current utilities budget.

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 dependability and efficiency 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. More detailed information about the planned timeline is available on the timeline page and will be updated as new information becomes available. 

The University of Maryland solicited feedback from stakeholders, including student groups, the Sustainability Council, the NextGen Steering Committee and the Office of Sustainability, among other groups.

We also formed the NextGen Advisory Group, a group of members representing key constituencies across campus. As the NextGen Energy Program continues to progress, we want to ensure we are engaging all areas and members of campus – and that of course includes our students and faculty members. The group is intended to provide the NextGen project team with input throughout the development and implementation of the NextGen Energy Program.      

The feedback has been instrumental in shaping the university’s analysis and will continue to play a pivotal role in the process moving forward.

The university has built out numerous mediums to keep stakeholders and the broader community informed about the progress of the NextGen Energy Program. This includes a dedicated website with updates and information. We encourage you to sign up for updates at NextGen.umd.edu.

In addition, the University of Maryland will make available public submittals at various stages of the process.