Last week, investors rallied around Oberlin College and Conservatory’s groundbreaking geothermal infrastructure project, pouring $ 80 million into one of the first higher education certified climate bond offerings, according to a Press release.
Certification from the Climate Bonds Initiative (CBI) indicates that independent experts have verified the environmental benefits of Oberlin’s Sustainable Infrastructure Program (SIP), in line with the goals and targets of the Paris Climate Agreement, says the press release.
This is only the second offering of certified climate bonds among U.S. colleges and universities, and the third in the world, the statement said.
The bonds attracted bids totaling nearly three times the amount of the bid.
The $ 80 Million Proceeds Enables Oberlin to Fully Fund Early Phases of its $ 140 Million SIP, While Achieving Significant Savings on Borrowing Costs, Compared to Traditional Financing and Other Green Bonds in the Market , according to the press release.
âBoth the CBI certification and the enthusiasm shown by some of the country’s most prestigious investors constitute a strong endorsement of Oberlin’s sustainable infrastructure program,â said Rebecca Vazquez-Skillings, vice president of finance and business. administration of Oberlin. âThe market appreciates our leadership in environmental sustainability and is confident in our ability to align financial stewardship, environmental innovation and institutional mission. “
Vazquez-Skillings said the show marks the lowest long-term funding cost Oberlin has ever hit.
The four-year sustainable infrastructure program will convert buildings at the 440-acre Oberlin campus to geothermal heating and cooling, leveraging 1,100 wells that harness the earth’s natural subterranean temperatures to replace traditional fuels such as coal and Oberlin’s current heat source, natural gas.
The project will also replace century-old steam lines with an efficient low-temperature distribution system that will save five million gallons of water per year and reduce operating costs by more than $ 1 million per year. .
At the same time, Oberlin buildings are being modernized to accommodate the new system, save energy and modernize electrical and communication technologies.
The project will propel Oberlin towards its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2025.
âThe (Sustainable Infrastructure Program) is a unique project that positions Oberlin as a global leader in clean energy,â said Meghan Riesterer, Oberlin’s associate vice president for campus energy and sustainability. âIt represents a bold move on the part of the college administrators and senior leaders and reflects the meaningful contributions of the institution’s staff, students and faculty.
âWe are proud to see that this conversion of the entire campus to geothermal heating and cooling is attracting such a favorable level of support and attention from innovative leaders in the financial industry.
Learn more about Oberlin College’s Sustainable Infrastructure Program.
Morgan Stanley was the underwriter and PFM served as financial advisor for the Certified Climate Bond transaction. PIMCO is the largest investor, accounting for around 37% of the Certified Climate Bond award. MacKay Shields owns about 25 percent and Goldman Sachs about 15 percent.
Oregon-based Kestrel Verifiers provided the exam in support of the certification.
Kestrel Verifiers has over 20 years of experience helping state and local governments and educational institutions access capital for infrastructure and sustainability projects.
Kestrel is a Climate Bonds Initiative (CBI) Accredited Chartered Auditor and the only such auditor with extensive U.S. public finance consulting experience and a Certified Female Business Company.
âOberlin’s sustainable infrastructure program is so well organized and planned that it provides a roadmap for other colleges and universities who wish to pursue carbon neutrality and sustainable infrastructure programs,â said Monica Reid, CEO by Kestrel Verifiers. âCertified Climate Bonds are the gold standard in debt financing to support environmental projects and Oberlin has met this standard excellently. “
Kestrel’s assessment of the Oberlin offering determined that the debt financing meets the Climate Bonds (V3.0) standard and industry criteria for low-carbon buildings.
Critical parameters used in the evaluation included how revenues will be used and managed, the process of project evaluation and selection, and the effectiveness of reporting procedures.
In his assessment, Kestrel cited the alignment of the Oberlin project with the climate change response actions required by the Paris Agreement, as well as with the multiple United Nations sustainable development goals.
Relevant SDGs include: 7: Affordable and clean energy; 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructures; 11: Sustainable cities and communities; 12: Responsible consumption and production; and 13: Climate Action.
The college’s partners on the project include Ever-Green Energy, which has been advising Oberlin on implementing its carbon neutral resource master plan since 2016.
Community partners include the Town of Oberlin, the First Church of Oberlin, the First United Methodist Church of Oberlin, the Town of Oberlin Schools, and the Mercy Health – Allen Hospital.
Design, construction, planning and technical consulting partners include MA Mortenson Company, Salas O’Brien, Makovich & Pusti Architects, Rafter A Surveyors, Frost Brown Todd and Ernst & Young.
Oberlin was one of the first signatories of the Carbon Commitment (formerly American Colleges & University Presidents Climate Commitment) in 2006.
The College’s commitment to environmental sustainability is long-standing and pervasive, ranging from faculty and student research and environmental studies program to green buildings to joint environmental planning with the City of Oberlin.
For more information, see Oberlin College’s Environmental_and_Social_Responsibility_Report_2020-21 report.