Innovating to Support Lower Carbon Emissions at U.S. Universities


Limiting the emissions on university campuses across the US will be key to reaching net zero goals by 2050.

According to Energy Information Administration data, 103 campus power plants at 93 universities across the United States emitted 5.8 million tons of greenhouse gases in 2020, a number that Public Private Partnership (P3) deals have an opportunity to drastically lower in the coming years.

P3 partnerships in universities across the United States are continuing to become more popular due to the mutually advantageous nature of their structure. A 2022 survey of university leaders across the US conducted by the University of Colorado Boulder found that 71% saw P3s growing on their campuses, with the primary causes being unique competencies, speed of execution, and availability of capital.

Leveraging its expertise in energy infrastructure projects, Societe Generale has helped enable the modernization of the energy grid at Eastern Michigan University’s (EMU) campus, through a transformative 50-year, long-term Public Private Partnership (P3) between the University and Eagle Energy Partners, an entity owned by CenTrio.

Throughout the duration of the deal, CenTrio will have the task of modernizing, operating and maintaining the electrical, heating, cooling and domestic water systems on campus while EMU continues to have ownership of the facilities and retains control of over decisions relating to capital improvements.

The transaction will bring reduced energy usage at EMU’s campus, modernizing its energy grid and accelerating decarbonization. The deal will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 40% and water usage by an estimated 20% over time. It will also generate significant funds to directly assist their students and support faculty. 

The P3 partnership, where Societe Generale acted as Financial Advisor, Sole Placement Agent and Joint Lead Arranger, is the latest example of the bank’s commitment to modernizing universities’ infrastructure while simultaneously limiting their carbon footprint, having previously helped facilitate similar deals with Georgetown University and the University of Iowa. 

Duncan Scott, who heads the Private Placement team at Societe Generale Americas in New York, sees an opportunity for Societe Generale to further leverage its experience in the sector to pursue similar deals, as they have a strong environmental and financial benefits.

“Handing management of these complex systems over to some of the leading energy experts in the world is an opportunity for universities to move closer to their goals of developing more sustainable energy infrastructure while lowering their carbon emissions.”