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Summer interns save $650 million in energy

This year's Climate Corps fellows put forth plans for saving up to 600 million kilowatt-hours of energy, 27 million therms of natural gas and 440,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
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Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor on

SmartPlanet has highlighted the work of the Climate Corps fellowships run by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) several times over the past two years, but this year's class appears to have been the most successful yet: the 96 MBA and MPA students who participated in the program last summer collectively identified an estimated $650 million in energy savings, according to EDF.

Climate Corps is a program designed to help businesses, communities and universities identify energy savings and carbon dioxide emissions reduction opportunities. Companies agree to take on summer interns who are focused on this sort of research as part of their academic work. In 2008, there were just seven participants. Last year, there were 51, so it isn't really surprising that almost double the number of participants identified almost double the potential savings in electricity and emissions.

Here are some of the highlighted projects:

  • McDonald's worked with its University of Michigan intern to figure out ways of getting the company's 700,000 restaurant employees more in touch with the value of energy efficiency; Pia Jean Kristiansen came up with a video script with tips for how to save an average of 10 percent in electricity usage.
  • Target will be developing a plan to earn Energy Star building ratings for up to 75 percent of its facilities by 2015. The project by UCLA student Neal Tsay also uncovered ways that Target can cut about 50,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually, saving several million dollars in electricity costs per year.
  • Two fellows working with the New York Housing Authority identified $58 million in heating cost reductions. (The interns represented Duke University and University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill.)

Plans and suggestions from the EDF Climate Corps fellows aren't just ideas or pipe dreams: EDF reports that 86 percent of the projects that were uncovered or identified since 2008 are either completed or under way. "In this economy, everyone is looking for ways to save and energy efficiency is a huge, and largely untapped, opportunity," said Victoria Mills, managing director of EDF's Corporate Partnerships program.

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This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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