For the best chance of arriving at an optimal solution at a competitive price, a well-thought-out procurement program should be coupled with an open, competitive process such as a request for proposals (RFP). If the university decides to issue an RFP, either by itself or in conjunction with other institutions, there are a number of parameters the university should consider:

  • Whether the utility is seeking a total, campuswide renewable-energy solution, combining renewable energy with energy management or energy-efficiency initiatives, or a limited solution with defined parameters.

  • Whether to seek a specific type of renewable energy, or even a specific technology, such as solar PV, or to be open to all sources of renewable energy.

  • Whether to propose a specific ownership and transaction structure.

  • Whether to include a model PPA, lease or other transaction documents.

  • The deadline by which the new power generation resources must be available, and the term required for the resources.

  • The minimum and maximum capacities of energy deliveries to be sought, which will determine the size and cost of the facility.

  • The campus’ average usage and typical energy profile by time of day and season—many renewable energy technologies are intermittent, and they may not match the campus’ energy usage patterns; other energy resources will be needed to continue to meet demand in other hours.

  • The required experience, capabilities and qualifications of eligible bidders.

A more general request for proposals may elicit more highly creative responses from developers, but also is likely to generate proposals that are less well-thought out technically and less competitive commercially. With careful preparation by facility engineering staff, campus administrators and legal advisers, a more focused request is likely to yield a more robust response. If the basic technology and transaction structure has been determined, such as a third-party PPA for an on-site solar, wind or geothermal project, the RFP itself can include more information of the type needed to make an intelligent bid, and the RFP can be directed to a more select group of providers that are more likely to submit a meaningful response.

Finally, a well-crafted RFP can include model documentation, such as a facility lease and a model PPA, which will enable bidders to understand the precise terms of the deal and make a stronger proposal. Further, the university evaluation team will be able to make a more accurate comparison of proposals, since the proposals from different developers will be based on common assumptions working from common documents.

  • Read the main story, "Renewable Resources," to learn about energy strategies for education institutions.