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USF students are gathering signatures to encourage 100% renewable energy on the Tampa campus

Selfie of of five masked USF students around a science board showing support for Florida wetlands.
Robert Vose
Robert Vose, right, heads the USF student chapter of the national organization Public Interest Research Group.

An online petition says that action by USF and "other colleges and universities in Florida to move towards a clean, renewable future will set an example for the rest of the nation."

Students at the University of South Florida are collecting signatures in hopes of moving the Tampa campus to 100% renewable energy by 2040.

Robert Vose is a USF senior getting his undergrad in Environmental Science and Policy. He's also coordinating the campaign on behalf of the USF chapter of PIRG, a national organization that stands for Public Interest Research Group.

The university has made some strides when it comes to renewable energy, like the installation of more than 1,000 solar panels to power the Marshall Student Center on the Tampa campus, and debuting its first electric bus last year.

On a sunny day with clear skies, there are tents and tables set up across the green grass. At the center of the photo stand two students behind a table with information about Florida PIRG and renewable energy.
Katie Mailly
USF student PIRG members, including Robert Vose on the left, at Bull Market campaigning for renewable energy.

“We have the Patel College of Global Sustainability on our campus, which is an amazing school that focuses around sustainability and renewable energy and just … making our world cleaner and a better place,” Vose acknowledged.

But he questioned where the university goes from here. How can it transition from partially renewable to 100%? He pointed out that a majority of the campus is powered by standard fossil fuel power plants.

“That’s … the main thing that we're seeking to move away from is just that reliance on these fossil fuel sources,” he said.

Vose would also like to see campus fleet vehicles transition to renewable energy, like those used by the USF Police Department and the bus system.

Over the course of a year and a half, his team's online petition urging that USF go 100% renewable by 2040 and for all electricity to come from renewable sources by 2030 has accrued about 1,200 signatures from faculty, students and alumni.

"In adopting renewable energy, USF will be able to become a leader in the state of Florida, and hopefully also in the nation in terms of what we can do with green energy for a university and it can expand to a municipality because … the size of USF that can easily translate to a whole city,” said Vose.

Vose plans to bring these signatures to USF President Rhea Law this summer.

A representative of USF said in an email, “USF is committed to institutional sustainability. It is one of the Core Commitments included in our new five-year Strategic Plan.”

Vose said he's lived in Florida his whole life.

“I've seen the impacts that massive storms and massive storm surges can have on cities and the livelihoods of people, and the environment," he said. "And also just kind of being Gen Z during this time of like realization that this is a major, major issue like this is kind of an existential threat to all of us."

Since 2012, I’ve been a voice on public radio stations across Florida - in Miami, Fort Myers, and now Tampa.