Energy at KU

Nighttime in front of Lippencott hall

KU is a Large Consumer of Energy

With over 25,000 students and 10,000 employees on the Lawrence and Edwards campuses, the University of Kansas is a large consumer of energy, using about 800,000 MBTU of energy annually and spending more than $12 million on energy costs, including electricity, natural gas and steam. This consumption results in the release of more than 166,602 metric tons of carbon emissions (MT eCO2) each year. We are therefore committed to a policy of energy efficiency and energy conservation to reduce our fiscal and environmental impacts.

The University of Kansas purchases electricity, natural gas, water, storm water management, and trash removal services from outside utility suppliers. However, the university does own and maintain the infrastructure used to distribute electricity, steam, and water to the many buildings on campus. This infrastructure includes:

  • Three electrical distribution systems (one on the main campus and two smaller systems on West Campus).
  • Chilled water piping to 17 buildings served by three chiller plants.
  • Piping to distribute steam produced by four boilers on main campus to 52 buildings and three boilers on West Campus to three buildings, and to return condensate to the boilers.
  • Water lines for distributing water to campus buildings.
  • 3804 sub-meters monitoring electric, steam, and water usage.

Energy Use Dashboard

Interactive charts of campus energy use for the Lawrence and Edwards campuses.
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How KU Gets Energy

KU purchases its electricity from Evergy and offsets nearly 100% of its electricity with wind energy through Evergy’s Renewables Direct program.

KU is an EPA Green Power Partner and ranks in the top 30 colleges and universities for annual green power use, using 127 million kWh or 98% of KU's electrical usage in 2022 from wind energy.

The vast majority of electricity is used in campus buildings for lighting, equipment, ventilation, heating, and cooling. Individual buildings are sub-metered, tracked, and monitored by the university.

Natural gas from WoodRiver Energy and Black Hills Energy is used primarily to fuel the Power Plant that distributes steam to buildings for heating and hot water. Buildings not on the main steam distribution system use natural gas for heating and to produce hot water within the building. Buildings are individually metered by Black Hills Energy.

The current steam Power Plant, near the corner of Sunnyside and Sunflower, was built in 1922. Four large boilers convert water to steam beneath the structure which is then sent through more than 16,000 lineal feet of tunnel systems that cross the main campus, some dating to the 1880s. The steam whistle, the “big tooter”, at the Power Plant remains a KU tradition since 1912. All buildings receiving steam are sub-metered by the university.

West Campus has a smaller steam plant under the Multidisciplinary Research Building that houses three boilers to provide steam for heating at three buildings on west campus.

Buildings not on the main steam distribution system use natural gas for heating and to produce hot water within the building.

Chilled water is used in the HVAC systems to cool the air as it passes by chilled water coils. Some buildings produce their own chilled water or share with other buildings. Nevertheless, there are three locations or plants (two on main campus and one on west campus) where chilled water is produced at a central location and sent to multiple buildings (17 total).

Most water used by the University of Kansas is supplied by the City of Lawrence through two main meters. Individual buidlings are sub-metered by the university.