Three Pennsylvania institutions prepare for climate impacts; earn national recognition for improving reliability, resilience, sustainability

Sumner Byrne
October 21, 2021

Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Chatham University and Lafayette College Earn PEER Certification from Green Business Certification Inc.

Partnership between Organizations and GBCI Made Possible by U.S. Dept. Of Energy, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection

WASHINGTON, D.C., OCTOBER 21, 2021 – Today, Green Business Certification Inc., the world’s leading sustainability and health certification and credentialing body, announced that Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Lafayette College, and Chatham University have all earned certification under GBCI’s Performance Excellence in Electricity Renewal (PEER) rating system. The PEER rating system recognizes power grid improvements across multiple sectors and rewards power users who enhance energy grid reliability, resilience, and sustainability.

Losing power puts lives at risk and disrupts economic activity. This year’s extreme weather events make clear that U.S grids are vulnerable to climate change. In February, a blizzard in Texas knocked out power for over four million people. Last month, Hurricane Ida left over a million Louisianans in the dark, some of whom still do not have access to reliable power. One in three Americans were impacted by an extreme climate-related event this summer alone. Grids must adapt quickly to build resilience and prepare for future events to keep occupants safe and prepared to bounce back. 

Through GBCI’s third-party verification, the communities of Lafayette College, Chatham University, and Milton S. Hershey Medical Center now have the reassurance that their power infrastructure is equipped to perform without interruption. The partnership between GBCI and these institutions was made possible by funding and support from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Department of Energy.  

PEER certification signifies that a system is resilient, reliable, and sustainable. The certification system supports global grid modernization efforts and recognizes industry leaders for improving efficiency, operational reliability, and overall resiliency. The PEER rating system assesses performance across four categories, including (1) reliability and resiliency, (2) energy efficiency and environment, (3) operations, management, and safety, and (4) grid services.

“DEP is pleased to support Hershey Medical Center, Chatham University, and Lafayette College in taking action to protect the resilience, reliability, and sustainability of our electric grid. This certification demonstrates their leadership in using energy resources responsibly and safeguarding their infrastructure," said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell.

Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Hershey Hershey Medical Center earned PEER Platinum Certification, the highest level of certification, with 85 points. During evaluation, the medical campus demonstrated zero minutes of power interruption. Additionally, 95% of the project’s distribution circuit is protected with distribution redundancy and auto restoration mechanisms. Half of the project's electrical load is served by clean generation (CHP) technologies.

Under its PEER Certification, Hershey Medical Center must ensure reliable operations throughout emergency events, excessive heat, and high demand for the safety of its patients. This 628-bed facility is central Pennsylvania’s only local academic medical center, and the only medical facility in the state to be accredited as a Level 1 trauma center for both children and adults. Power disruptions interrupt normal life for anyone, but power loss has an even more dangerous effect on our most critical services. Even a brownout for a brief period at medical facilities can cost lives and money. With their PEER certification, Hershey Medical Center can rest assured that patients will not be put at risk even during an extreme weather event.

“We are committed to a holistic framework that addresses the efficiency and effectiveness of our electrical system,” explained Marvin W. Smith, P.E., CHFM, Assistant Vice President of Facilities. “Through PEER certification, we demonstrate dedication to reliability, resiliency and the environment. 

Chatham University – Eden Hall Campus, Pittsburgh – Chatham University earned PEER Silver Certification with 56 points, demonstrating clear progress towards the university’s goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2025. Chatham’s PEER project was the first student-led PEER certification effort in the world. Five graduate students participated in the PEER process for course credit and developed an internal report advocating for additional grid improvements.

Chatham’s grid has now been enhanced to include renewable energy, which reduces the carbon footprint of the campus. Based upon Eden Hall Campus’s successful PEER certification, Chatham will consider incorporating future PEER projects into university curriculum.

“Chatham’s Eden Hall Campus is designed to be a living lab for sustainability and resiliency, and it made perfect sense to do PEER as a student-led real-world project, where students can drive progress while developing their skills,” noted Dr. Mary Whitney, Director of University Sustainability. “We were very happy that several of our students chose to pursue their PEER Pro badge as part of this project.

Lafayette College, Easton – Lafayette College achieved PEER Silver Certification with 50 points as part of its goal to achieve carbon neutrality by 2035. All of Lafayette College’s power distribution cables are undergrounded, significantly improving power service reliability. All the college’s heat is now supplied by a District Heating System, which improves energy efficiency and provides cost savings. Additionally, the school’s participation in Demand Response programs results in energy savings and efficient grid management. 

“Earning PEER certification is a key step toward our goal to have a carbon neutral campus by 2035," said Scott Kennedy, director of Facilities Operations at Lafayette College. "Credit goes to our team for ensuring that our distribution systems, heating systems and generators are robust, secure and efficient in an ongoing effort to keep Lafayette green."

In 2020 Pennsylvania became the second state after Kentucky to partner with the PEER program to evaluate and modernize their power systems. Each of the three award recipients sought and earned certification through the partnership between GBCI and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and made possible by investments by the U.S. Department of Energy’s State Energy Program. Thanks to this federal funding, PADEP was able to partner with GBCI to train project teams throughout the Commonwealth on the use of PEER and evaluate their progress against a global benchmark for power system performance. Through PEER, these award recipients are bolstering and modernizing their infrastructure to prepare for a more resilient future.