To the Editors:
Your recent article, “Supplemental Utility Building Plans on Hold,” leaves the incorrect impression that UConn has halted work on a critical portion of the long-planned Northwest Science Quad, which includes renovation of the Gant Science Complex and construction of the new 198,000-square-foot, $240 million Science 1 Building.
The Supplemental Utility Plant (SUP) project contains two phases, the first of which remains on track.
Phase 1 involves making site improvements, building the new SUP structure, and installing chillers, emergency generators, and equipment to provide cooling to the Science 1 Building and the renovated Gant complex.
It is important to make clear that this phase is well under way, necessary to the Gant renovation and Science 1 construction, and will continue uninterrupted.
Phase 2 of the Supplemental Utility Plant project would be to install equipment inside the new SUP building to make it function as a “tri-generation” facility that burns natural gas to provide heat, electricity and cooling. That phase is the portion to which President Thomas C. Katsouleas refers.
Specifically, he has stated that UConn will not proceed with work on electric power tri-generation that would be “irreversible,” and that decisions on how that plant operates – including whether it uses natural gas or other resources – will come only after coordinated analysis, collection of data and strategic planning.
This reflects our shared commitment with students to be good stewards of our campus and the environment on a larger scale, including by examining ways in which UConn can meet its operational needs while reducing carbon emissions.
President Katsouleas is committed to gathering feedback from the campus community on these issues through the new President’s Working Group on Sustainability and the Environment, and other avenues.
UConn believes climate change is of utmost importance, and that we have an obligation to explore setting more ambitious goals to reduce our carbon emissions than we already have. But any commitment we make must be real — it must be truly achievable and realistic based on data, analysis and our best estimates of cost, technological capabilities and pace.
We look forward to learning as much as we can – in tandem with our students, employees and others – about the technologies available to generate energy at the SUP, and to make a decision based on research about the facts and reflection about our community’s environmental values.
Executive Vice President & Chief Financial Officer