Virginia Tech Plans by 2020 to Replace Coal with Natural Gas for Blacksburg Campus Steam Heat and Electricity Co-generation

Lower natural gas prices and a carbon-emissions-reduction goal were the reasons cited when Virginia Tech announced in mid-June 2016 that it plans by 2020 to stop burning coal for steam heat and electricity at its main campus in Blacksburg, instead burning only natural gas.  Currently the university uses both fuels.  After 2020, coal would continue as a “backup fuel for the foreseeable future,” according to Laura Neff-Henderson of Tech’s University Relations Division.  Ms. Neff-Henderson stated that the conversion to natural gas only is expected to save about $1 million annually from an annual cost currently of between $6 million and $7 million.  The conversion is also part of the university’s efforts to reduce its carbon emissions by 2050 to 80 percent of the levels emitted in 1990, a goal set in a climate action plan that the university approved in 2009 and reaffirmed in 2013 (more information about that plan is available online at

Source: Virginia Tech plans greater use of natural gas, Roanoke Times, 6/19/16.

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