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Energy & Emissions

Northwestern’s GHG emissions are categorized and aligned to the international Greenhouse Gas Protocol as follows:

  • Scope 1: These are the direct emissions occurring as a result of Northwestern’s use of fossil fuels, such as burning natural gas to heat campus facilities or using diesel or gasoline in campus owned and operated fleet vehicles.
  • Scope 2: These are the indirect emissions from Northwestern’s use of electricity. They are considered indirect because electricity is consumed on campus, but the emissions occur from the burning of fossil fuels or other energy sources to produce electricity at a power plant.
  • Scope 3: These are the indirect, “supply chain” emissions from other sources in Northwestern’s campus operations and cover a wide variety of topics. Examples include emissions from:
    • Procurement – energy and fossil fuel used in the production of goods and services Northwestern procures
    • Employee commuting – gas used in passenger vehicles that Northwestern employees drive to and from work
    • Waste – energy and fossil fuel used in the collection and disposal of waste produced on Northwestern’s campus

To reduce its emissions, Northwestern will prioritize energy efficiency, plan for the future of campus energy infrastructure and investigate additional renewable energy project opportunities. Northwestern will also better manage indirect emissions (Scope 3) across the University’s supply chain. To accomplish this, Northwestern will build upon existing policies, such as the University’s Energy Conservation Policy, to pursue actions that result in further emissions and energy reduction.


  • Northwestern’s goal is to continue to measure and reduce the University’s overall greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, assessing and developing the tools necessary for a carbon neutral future.

Actions in Progress

  • on-track

    Develop roadmap to meet climate mitigation goals.

  • on-track

    Evaluate feasibility of shifting away from fossil fuels for on-campus heating and cooling.

  • on-track

    Incremental purchase of credible carbon offsets and renewable energy credits (RECs) to achieve carbon-neutrality, as an interim measure.

  • on-track

    Develop and adopt a renewable energy procurement strategy giving priority to investing in and adding renewable energy capacity to targeted areas in the Midwest and Illinois, and/or locations with carbon intensive energy mixes, where feasible.

Ameresco Partnership

Ariel view of the Evanston campus. Lake Michigan on the right and the campus on the left.
As part of its continuing climate leadership efforts, Northwestern University has partnered with Ameresco, a leading clean technology integrator specializing in energy efficiency and renewable energy. The initiative will help Northwestern significantly reduce its carbon footprint across both the Evanston and Chicago campuses while also providing learning opportunities for students.

Community Solar Partnership

  • In 2020, Northwestern announced a 15-year partnership with Clearway Energy, one of the largest developers of clean energy in the U.S. The partnership with Clearway Energy enabled the development and construction of 16 community solar projects in Illinois across 7 counties.
  • The power generated from Clearway’s project portfolio is equivalent to removing 12,000 cars from the road each year. These projects not only make the Illinois electrical grid greener, but they also created more than 75 jobs during construction as well as permanent green jobs once in operation. Additionally, Northwestern students have access to project data and physical access to the sites to observe and study those systems.

What You Can Do

Get Involved

Rally your friends and colleagues, and help us make sustainable living a part of our campus culture. Visit the Take Action page to learn about ways to get started.

Take Action