by Matthew Guarracino
While energy usage and energy management is a significant component of any academic institution’s sustainability strategy, surprisingly as much as 30 percent of a school’s total energy is used inefficiently or unnecessarily. According to the U.S Department of Environmental Protection, 17,450 K-12 American school districts spend more than $6 billion annually on energy, amounting to more than what is spent on computers and textbooks combined! By being more energy efficient, schools can help prevent greenhouse gas emissions and improve the students’ learning environment, all while successfully saving funds.
There are a number of simple measures that can be easily integrated into a school’s plan that helps lower energy costs. To start, it is important to measure and track energy performance by initiating low cost measures that include turning off lights when not in use, setting back the thermostat at night and when a building is unoccupied, and performing maintenance on equipment. Awareness is a key component, and educating students and employees of the school can have a very positive affect on energy usage behaviors.
Cost-effective investments also bring significant savings in the long run. Energy audits and plans that identify potential improvements in energy efficiency continue to be an effective way for schools to discover opportunities for both immediate and long-term cost savings. These investments include installing energy efficient controls, upgrading equipment and replacing outdated energy consuming equipment. It is also recommended that facilities work with professionals to help manage and improve performance. Conversely, many energy service companies (ESCOs) offer performance contracts where equipment upgrades are financed by the ESCO from the anticipated future savings.
Although it may not seem like the most immediate need for schools and universities, improving energy efficiency within facilities can help alleviate other problems as well. Increased energy efficiency can provide schools with a greater incentive to become greener, while also creating energy savings which can be put toward capital improvements, ultimately creating a healthier and higher performing school. Educational institutions are consistently looking for ways to obtain and maintain the best atmosphere for their current students and faculty, and reliability can contribute in a major way to a facility’s atmosphere, specifically on a college or university campus.
Schools and universities have access to a wide variety of efficient energy strategies and solutions that can deliver energy and capital savings along with providing proven benefits to the environment. Administrators and building managers that take advantage of these opportunities will reap benefits for the long-term.
Matthew Guarracino is business development manager at JM Electrical Company , Inc.