Carbon lock-in and decarbonization pathways at the University of Dayton

Date of Award


Degree Name

M.S. in Renewable and Clean Energy


Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. Graduate Renewable and Clean Energy Program


Advisor: Robert J. Brecha


Despite the availability of cost-effective alternatives to highly carbon-intensive practices, the world continues to invest in fossil fuel energy systems. For universities that have pledged to become carbon neutral, this concept of carbon lock-in raises the stakes of their carbon commitments, presenting challenges to traditional practices in facilities planning and operations. Building upon past research on carbon lock-in effects on college campuses, this thesis seeks to identify the University of Dayton's over-committed emissions under a business-as-usual scenario and chart out a course for decarbonization pathways that would unlock those emissions that are hardest to avoid. I find the business-as-usual scenario results in high carbon liability at the neutrality date, which represents high costs to offset carbon emissions or purchase other end-of-pipe" solutions. I also discuss decarbonization pathways that could unlock these over-committed emissions. Future work should explore some of the carbon unlocking strategies discussed here so the university can begin to integrate them into its climate action plan and construction policies. Additionally, this perspective on carbon lock-in will be useful to administrators and facilities managers at other institutions concerned about carbon neutrality and high carbon liabilities associated with existing and future carbon-emitting infrastructure."


University of Dayton Energy conservation Planning, Clean energy Ohio Dayton Planning, Greenhouse gas mitigation Ohio Dayton Planning, Facility management Energy conservation Planning, Mechanical Engineering, Engineering, Sustainability, Climate Change, carbon lock-in, climate commitment, social cost of carbon, higher education, over-committed emissions, carbon accounting, emissions scenarios, facilities management, american college and university presidents climate commitment, decarbonization pathways

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