Departmental Energy Reports and Carbon Pricing for Duke


Fall 2016 - Spring 2017


Duke has occupied a leadership role among universities addressing climate change, through its significant role in creating ideas, engaging key stakeholders to advance those ideas and training a new generation of environmental leaders and scholars. Starting in 2007 with the Duke carbon neutrality pledge, and following with the decision to replace the university’s aging coal plant with natural gas, the university has taken action. But students and community leaders have asked if we can do more.

Duke is committed to being carbon-neutral by 2024. Coupled with offsets and energy efficiency, a carbon policy can move the university closer to this goal. This Bass Connections project set out to find ways to measure and influence both individual and institutional change to reduce Duke’s carbon footprint in pursuit of the university’s 2024 goal.

The project’s objectives mimicked those of the Yale Carbon Charge Task Force, which designed and implemented an internal carbon charge program. Namely, how do we encourage departments to decrease carbon emissions? What information do departments need to take action? Is an internal carbon charge at Duke a good idea? If so, how might it be designed? How else might departments at Duke be encouraged to reduce their carbon footprint?

The team visited Yale in the fall to interview people associated with its carbon pricing program, and conducted interviews at Duke to map the internal decision-making structure and understand the motivations of stakeholders. To better understand the global state of carbon policies, team members reviewed existing and planned carbon policies for countries, states, universities and corporations.

The team’s policy evaluation included two primary questions: Should the proposed policy collect revenue, or should collected money be distributed back to taxpayers in a revenue-neutral model? What policy design is the most effective: a cap-and-trade, a tax or a hybrid? Team members evaluated both decision processes based on six criteria (implementation feasibility, emissions reduction, research and institutional value, student engagement, long-term feasibility, behavioral incentives).

In the spring, the team drew on additional interviews and access to building-level energy data to prepare a report with recommendations, which team members delivered to Duke’s Campus Sustainability Committee. The team concluded that the energy billing process should be simplified to allow for a carbon charge to be levied as part of a carbon policy. One main component is to introduce carbon charge as a line item in the energy bills departments receive. A pilot study would help departments with the transition to a carbon charge program.




Blair Lanier, Aashna Aggarwal, Dipro Bhowmik, Samuel Corwin, Yan Cheng, Chunhui Yang, Tianlin Duan, Lauren Shum, Jasmine Oon Mei Tan, Shengjie Yao


Billy Pizer, Tim Profeta, Jason Elliott


Duke Carbon Offsets Initiative, Sustainable Duke, Facilities Management Department, Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, Sanford School of Public Policy

Related Content

Related Links

Related Courses

Bass Connections


Air & Climate, Buildings, Campus Engagement, carbon pricing, energy, Energy, GHG emissions, Policy & Planning, Research