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. At the same time, the Duke community has asked whether we ourselves should be doing more operationally. 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.

Project Description

Duke has the opportunity to continue leading by example by taking additional steps to address the largest sources of carbon emissions at the university – energy use and transportation. The goal of the project is 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 climate neutrality goal.

This project mimics the objectives of the Yale Carbon Charge Task Force—which designed and implemented an internal carbon charge program—here at Duke. 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 project team spent the fall semester analyzing the landscape of internal carbon policies, the specific challenges facing universities and Yale University’s internal carbon pricing program in preparation for a November trip to New Haven. Team members investigated energy use, management and billing at Duke through interviews with staff across departments. In the spring semester, additional interviews and access to building-level energy data put the team in a position to begin drafting recommendations to the Campus Sustainability Committee. These will be delivered before the end of the academic year.

The team has learned a remarkable amount about how energy is managed at Duke University. Students have focused on two main questions: 1) how could the cost of carbon be integrated into capital investment decisions, whether for new construction or building retrofits; and 2) how can the university best influence the behavior of end users? The team is also evaluating how energy reports could be designed to effectively inform and influence decision-makers. Each of these questions involves both particular questions about how decisions are made at Duke, as well as broader questions of how we can influence behavior, policy and priorities in organizations/institutions of any size.

Anticipated Outcomes

The project team will collect and analyze carbon accounting data on energy and transportation. Then, building on this information, the team will develop energy reports that educate departments on their current carbon emissions and actions they can take to reduce emissions. Finally, the team will research different types of carbon pricing programs to recommend a carbon pricing pilot program for Duke.


Fall 2016 – Spring 2017

Team Outcomes to Date

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 (slides for team presentation to Tallman Trask, Executive Vice President at Duke, and Tavey Capps, Director of Sustainable Duke)


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)

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

Three Bass Connections Faculty Leaders Receive Honors

Duke Carbon Offsets Initiative 2016 Annual Report

Carbon Pricing at Duke University - Bass Connections 2016-2017

Faculty/Staff Team Members

Charles Adair, Duke Sustainability Program*
Kyle Bradbury, Duke University Energy Initiative
Nicolette Cagle, Nicholas School - Environmental Sciences & Policy
Tavey Capps, Duke Sustainability Program
Charlotte Clark, Nicholas School - Environmental Sciences & Policy
Casey Collins, Duke Facilities Management
Jason Elliott, Duke Sustainability Program*
Timothy Johnson, Nicholas School - Earth & Ocean Sciences
Richard Larrick, Fuqua School of Business
Jonas Monast, Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions
Brian Murray, Nicholas School of the Environment
William Pizer, Sanford School of Public Policy*
Timothy Profeta, Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions*
Eric Smith, Duke Libraries & Informational Technology
Jack Soll, Fuqua School of Business
Rebecca Vidra, Nicholas School - Environmental Sciences & Policy
Jonathan Wiener, Law School

Graduate Team Members

Yan Cheng, Nicholas School, Master of Environmental Management
Blair Lanier, Sanford and Fuqua - MPP/MBA
Chunhui (Will) Yang, Nicholas School, Master of Environmental Mgmt.

Undergraduate Team Members

Aashna Aggarwal, Economics (BS), Environmental Sciences (BS2)
Dipro Bhowmik, Economics (AB), Environmental Sci/Policy (AB2)
Samuel Corwin, Environmental Sci/Policy (AB), Asian & Mid East Studies (AB2)
Tianlin Duan, Statistical Science (AB)
Lauren Shum, Electrical & Computer Engineering
Jasmine Oon Mei Tan, Environmental Sci/Policy (AB)
Shengjie Yao, Economics (AB), Psychology (AB2)

* denotes team leader