Energy & Climate Change

In 2007 the President’s Task Force on Climate Change was formed to develop a set of recommendations for how the university should address greenhouse gas emissions. The Task Force focused on three primary areas: Tactics and Strategies for emissions reductions, Research and Innovation, and Community Partnerships. The Task Force set a goal for JHU to cut emissions in half by 2025 from expected business as usual levels. After reviewing the Task Force report, President Daniels asked for a detailed plan for reaching the recommendations included in the Task Force report. The Climate Change Leadership for the Future: Implementation Plan for Achieving GHG Reduction Goals details how the university will cut emissions and explores how to put Johns Hopkins knowledge to work contributing to Baltimore-wide sustainability and climate change efforts. Over the first five years of the greenhouse gas reduction plan, Johns Hopkins University’s emissions have dropped by 101,000 metric tons, or roughly 30% below where we started in 2008. The Office of Sustainability Five Year Report reviews and assesses this progress.

Three common approaches to reducing fossil fuel based energy and greenhouse gas emissions are:
  • Efficiency, which means getting the most productivity and quality from every unit of energy from the equipment and technology you install – getting more with less;
  • Conservation, which means to use carefully or sparingly - using energy only when it is needed; and
  • Renewable Energy, which means producing energy using resources that are naturally and rapidly regenerative – employing the sun, wind, water, and biomass to generate power.


Efficiency guides the decisions in JHU’s Facilities and Design & Construction offices. All renovations and new construction projects are pushed to design to use the least amount of energy possible based on the program and uses of the building with the current building energy codes as a standard. We are accomplishing this by:

  • Installing efficient light fixtures that deliver the best quality light at the proper levels while using less electricity.
  • Recommending Energy Star labeled electrical equipment.
  • Upgrading our central plants to incorporate higher efficiency Cogeneration (CHP) and Trigeneration (CCHP) equipment (see below). Interested in a tour? Submit a request!
  • Requiring LEED Silver equivalent in all new construction and major renovations.
  • Improving the operations and energy recovery of heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment.
  • Using local utility company rebates to replace older equipment with high efficiency alternatives.
  • Investigating the opportunities to use more efficient technologies like ground source heat pumps, condensing boilers, desiccant dehumidification, point of use hot water, or eliminating cooling all-together when ambient temperatures are adequate.


Technology is being built into the building infrastructure to conserve energy automatically where possible, and built into smarter system designs that better support occupant needs without wasting energy. Examples of our energy conservation initiatives:

  • Installing occupant based lighting controls to take better advantage of natural light when available and turn lights off after spaces are vacated.
  • Improving traditional systems to recover useful waste energy from building equipment and use it wherever possible.
  • Cutting down on wasted energy by throttling back air and water systems as appropriate.
  • Updating building energy management controls to only use what energy is needed to heat and cool.
  • Improving roof, wall, window and door systems with better insulation and solar reflective surfaces.
  • Utilize more “free cooling” and “free heating” to reduce fossil fuel and electrical use.
  • Installing individual comfort and lighting controls to reduce waste in unoccupied areas.
  • Eliminating wasteful practices when cooling, heating and controlling humidity.
  • Upgrading comfort systems with occupant based controls to reduce energy waste when spaces are vacant.
  • Improved diagnostic capabilities for HVAC-R and lighting controls. 
  • Ensuring we are using both the most efficient components and efficiently designed smart systems.
  • Provide educational venues for designers, project managers and maintenance technicians on new energy code, equipment options, control technologies and energy and financial evaluation metrics. 

Renewable Energy

The State of Maryland has a mandate to increase the amount of renewable energy in its energy portfolio to 20% by 2022. The university is also working to take advantage of this region’s solar, wind and hydro opportunities. We are accomplishing this by:

  • Installing solar photovoltaic arrays on building roofs.
  • Actively investigating the feasibility of solar thermal heating and cooling systems.
  • Investing in offsite solar production opportunities to allow for additional solar energy production in the state of Maryland.

Johns Hopkins is home to one of the largest solar projects in the City of Baltimore and one of the largest building-mounted solar systems in the country. Photovoltaic (PV) panels atop seven buildings collect solar radiation and convert it directly into electricity, generating 1 million kWh of clean renewable energy each year, or enough electricity to power roughly 112 average households and offset 545 tons of greenhouse gases. The project was the first major renewable energy system installed at Hopkins, and it is also the first energy project that includes academic divisions on multiple campuses. The Sustainability Office is investigating additional opportunities for Solar PV on several other buildings and parking structures.

See how much solar energy is being generated right now on the live Solar Dashboard.

Energy efficiency and CHP

The university generates an impressive 28% of its own electricity right on campus utilizing energy efficient Cogeneration (Combined Heating and Power) and Trigeneration (Combined Cooling, Heating and Power) equipment. The university has this efficient equipment at the Homewood, Mount Washington and the East Baltimore campuses. When running at full capacity, these gas turbines and engines will generate over 20 Megawatts of electricity and convert natural gas into electricity and heat at efficiencies approaching 75%, nearly 50% better than grid electricity. Cogeneration also reduces the university’s carbon footprint since the university purchases less electricity from regional coal-burning power plants.

Additionally, cogeneration and trigeneration are more efficient than conventional electric power generation because almost all of the waste heat that is generated can be captured and used on campus. This means we burn less natural gas in our boilers to produce that heat. Several other locations across the university are currently being evaluated for cogeneration and trigeneration systems.

There are also initiatives in place to reduce electricity consumption in our cooling plants. In the winter, when our internal cooling loads are small, outside air can be used to make chilled water using less energy than electric chillers. We can also make ice in the summer for use when the utility asks us to shut down chillers to reduce electric loads. The university has Ice Storage at Eastern, Homewood, Mount Washington and the Applied Physics Lab. There is free cooling capability at Mount Washington and Homewood.

Ideas in Action

Think before you print.

Office paper is highly recyclable, but a lot gets wasted. Waste reduction is more cost-effective than recycling because it reduces the amount of material that needs to be collected, transported and processed.