Energy at Duke University


Duke University provides electricity, steam for heating, and chilled water for cooling buildings around campus. The steam and chilled water are produced on campus by Duke’s two steam plants and two chilled water plants. Nearly all electricity used on campus is purchased from Duke Energy, North Carolina’s main electricity provider. The University’s annual energy use is almost evenly split between electricity and natural gas. All energy used on campus accounts for nearly 65% of total campus greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as seen in the chart below.

FY19 emissions pie chart

Due to the large impact of energy use on campus, Duke’s Facilities Management Department has emphasized sustainability goals in its work, which has led to a 36% reduction, nearly 100,000 metric tons, in energy-related GHG emissions since 2007.

Campus Initiatives

To accomplish the nearly 40% decrease in energy emissions, Duke has worked aggressively to increase the efficiency of campus buildings, educate the Duke community about ways to reduce their energy use, and upgrade central heating and cooling plants.

Steam on campus used to be generated mostly through the burning of coal in Duke’s steam plants. In 2011, Duke ended the use of coal in on-campus steam plants leading to a large decrease in energy emissions. Today, the steam plants now combust natural gas, with the hopes to convert steam generation to biogas in the future.

Buildings on campus are always being looked at to find ways to reduce their energy use. With tweaks to heating and cooling needs, upgrades to lighting fixtures, and installment of more efficient equipment, Duke has increased building efficiency by 12%. Most recently, with the help of students from the Pratt School of Engineering and Facilities Management Department, Hudson Hall is piloting an LED retrofit project, which is estimated to save hundreds of thousands of dollars over the next 10 years.

Total campus energy use graphic

Future of Energy at Duke

Duke will build upon the reductions in energy emissions achieved since 2007 and aggressively pursue energy efficiency strategies in new and existing buildings, central utility improvements and renewable energy technologies where feasible. Duke will continue to reduce energy-related emissions with strategies such as expanding LED lighting upgrades, building HVAC optimization, chilled water system improvements, hot water conversion, on-campus solar, and larger-scale renewables such as biogas and off-site solar. For more information about the potential impacts of these strategies, view the 2019 Climate Action Plan Update (available spring 2019) and the 2018 Energy Needs Analysis.

Parking Garage 9 solar panels
750 kilowatt solar array installed on Research Drive Parking Garage in Fall 2018.