UEM earns platinum-level PEER renewal certification

Utilities and Energy Management (UEM) has again earned Performance Excellence in Electricity Renewal (PEER) certification by Green Building Certification Inc. (GBCI), this time at the platinum level. Over the past 15 years, UEM has emerged as a university utilities leader, winning numerous awards and becoming the world’s first PEER-certified campus in 2014.

Juan Ontiveros, associate vice president of Utilities and Energy Management, said the underlying force behind UEM’s success is its people, adding that teamwork and stewardship of resources are fundamental to energy efficiency and sustainability.

“It takes time, concentrated effort, careful planning, and everyone working together to reach the level of efficiency that we’ve achieved,” Ontiveros said. “Our teams are like a chain, and there are no weak links.”

PEER certification is a rigorous, comprehensive framework for evaluating and improving efficiency, day-to-day reliability and overall resiliency of a power system. It’s the first program of its kind in the U.S. and is used to assess the performance of any power system, be it a utility and city, college campus, or transit project, such as a metro rail. The PEER rating system provides a set of metrics to allow organizations to evaluate and set the standard for energy system performance that best meets their consumers’ needs.

For nearly a century, UT Austin has generated its own electric power, serving the entire campus with what began as a coal-fired boiler steam system that was later converted to natural gas to generate 100 percent of the energy needed to operate the main campus. Using a combined heat and power (CHP) system, a technology that maximizes efficiency by generating electricity and then capturing the heat that would otherwise be wasted, the university’s microgrid (including chilled water storage) can ensure reliable power to each building with exceptional self-sufficiency and control. The system’s annual efficiency rate averages 85-88%, achieving a record 89% in 2019. Over the last 45 years, the amount of building space served has more than doubled, while fuel consumption remains at 1976 levels.

The value of the UT Austin microgrid is a result of several contributing factors, including UEM’s continued efficiency and optimization efforts, increased energy storage capacity, reduced electricity and thermal energy costs, reduced distribution costs, and the ability to deliver uninterrupted service to UT’s critical facilities.

To learn more about UEM’s efficiency efforts and teamwork, please visit the following web pages: