Developing Departmental Energy Reports and a Carbon Pricing Program for Duke University (2016-2017)

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.


Fall 2016 – Spring 2017

Team Outcomes

Duke University Carbon Policy on the Road to 2024: Policy Proposals (Samuel Corwin, Dipro Bhowmik, Will Yang, Yan Cheng, Aashna Aggarwal, Shengjie Yao, Lauren Shum, Blair Lanier, Tim Profeta, Billy Pizer, Charles Adair, Jason Elliott)

Energy Reporting and Carbon Pricing at Duke University (Aashna Aggarwal, Dipro Bhowmik, Samuel Corwin, Will Yang, Yan Cheng, Yao Shengjie, Lauren Shum, Jasmine Tan, Tianlin Duan)

Carbon Policy on the Road to 2024 (team presentation to Tallman Trask, Executive Vice President at Duke, and Tavey Capps, Director of Sustainable Duke)


Will Yang

Lauren Shum

Samuel Corwin

Blair Lanier

Let’s Put a Price on It? (Aashna Aggarwal)

Throw Out the Org Chart! (Dipro Bhowmik)

Intersection with the Campus Sustainability Committee (Samuel Corwin)

Student Behavior Change Analysis: Electricity Dashboard (Yan Cheng)

We Have to Start Paying More Attention to Environmental Policies (Shengjie Yao)

Lessons Learned about Team Dynamics (Lauren Shum)

What You Don’t Know about Energy Consumption on the Duke Campus (Will Yang)

Realizing How Much We’ve Learned (Blair Lanier)

The End (for Now) (Shengjie Yao)

Seeking Inspiring, Ambitious Solutions That Are Also Pragmatic (Dipro Bhowmik)

The Endless Pursuit of Equity (Samuel Corwin)

Boosting Bass Connections Projects with Behavioral Economics (Jasmine Tan)

Building a Team, a Clay Structure and a Carbon Pricing Program (Aashna Aggarwal)

This Team in the News

Faculty Perspectives: Jonathan Wiener

Three Bass Connections Faculty Leaders Receive Honors

Duke Carbon Offsets Initiative 2016 Annual Report

Carbon Pricing at Duke University: Bass Connections 2016-2017

Team Leaders

  • Charles Adair, Duke Sustainability Program
  • Jason Elliott, Duke Sustainability Program
  • William Pizer, Sanford School of Public Policy
  • Timothy Profeta, Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions

/graduate Team Members

  • Chunhui (Will) Yang, Master of Environmental Management, Energy and Environment
  • Yan Cheng, Master of Environmental Management, Energy and Environment
  • Blair Lanier, Business Administration-MBA, Masters of Public Policy

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Shengjie Yao, Economics (BS)
  • Aashna Aggarwal, Economics (BS)
  • Jasmine Oon Mei Tan, Computer Science (BS)
  • Lauren Shum, Electrical & Computer Egr(BSE)
  • Tianlin Duan, Statistical Science (BS)
  • Samuel Corwin, Environmental Sci/Policy (AB), Asian & Mid East Studies (AB2)
  • Dipro Bhowmik, Economics (BS)

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Casey Collins, Duke Facilities Management
  • Timothy Johnson, Nicholas School of the Environment-Earth and Climate Sciences
  • Charlotte Clark, Nicholas School of the Environment-Environmental Sciences and Policy
  • Richard Larrick, Fuqua School of Business
  • Jonas Monast, Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions
  • Brian Murray, Nicholas School of the Environment-Environmental Sciences and Policy
  • Tavey Capps, Duke Sustainability Program
  • Eric Smith, Duke Libraries
  • Jack Soll, Fuqua School of Business
  • Nicolette Cagle, Nicholas School of the Environment-Environmental Sciences and Policy
  • Rebecca Vidra, Nicholas School of the Environment-Environmental Sciences and Policy
  • Jonathan Wiener, Duke Law
  • Kyle Bradbury, Pratt School of Engineering-Electrical & Computer Engineering|Energy Initiative