Conservation program saving BCBOE money in energy costs

A new conservation program instituted last fall has saved the Bartow County School System more than $160,000 in energy costs.

The administration and board members announced last week the system has saved $161,373 in the first nine months of an energy conservation and management program implemented through a partnership with Cenergistic, a leading behavioral and organizational behavior-based energy conservation company whose energy management program has saved more than $3 billion for educational and complex organizations.

Besides saving money, the program also has saved the school system 1 million kilowatt-hours of electricity, which equals 635 metric tons of carbon dioxide emission being prevented or having 132 cars taken off the road each year, according to a school district press release.

Also 15,000 therms of natural gas and 2 million gallons of water have been saved during that period, which ran from October 2014 to June 2015.

“I am pleased by the energy conservation success we have seen,” Superintendent Dr. John Harper said. “Our partnership with Cenergistic has led to a dramatic change in how we view energy consumption. While we believed we were doing a pretty good job of saving energy before, this program has taken us to a new level. Our success is directly attributable to each and every member of our staff working as change agents, ensuring we use our resources responsibly. The dollars we’ve saved in just the first few months is a significant amount. It’s money we won’t have to cut from our budget.”

Through the cost-saving program, Cenergistic and the school system have created a “customized and sustainable” conservation program that reduces consumption of electricity, natural gas, fuel oil and water by making changes in “organizational and human behavior,” the release said.

Cenergistic’s conservation experts work closely with school system personnel to audit buildings for the most efficient operation and to train employees to control energy use wherever possible.

Troy Brazie was hired as the district’s energy specialist last December, and he received intensive training from Cenergistic to help him implement conservation procedures and behaviors throughout the system.

“In my role as the district’s energy specialist, I monitor the energy usage on a day-to-day basis,” Brazie said. “I schedule facilities on and off to ensure that unoccupied spaces are not being conditioned. I also ensure that the temperatures in occupied spaces adhere to the district guidelines for temperature settings. I respond to comfort complaints to determine if an adjustment is needed or [if] there is a mechanical issue. This helps alleviate the workload from the HVAC technicians. And finally, I perform energy audits of the buildings during occupied and unoccupied times to ensure that systems are working properly.”

To see how effective and successful the program is, energy consumption — including electricity, water, sewer, natural gas and fuel oil — is monitored using third-party energy-accounting software, Brazie said.

The software compares current energy use to a baseline period — October 2013 to September 2014 for Bartow County schools — and calculates the amount of energy that would have been used if conservation and management practices had not been in place. It makes adjustments for weather, equipment additions or deletions and changes in building use.
By tracking consumption and analyzing energy use, the software helps the school system and Cenergistic quickly identify and correct energy consumption issues that need to be addressed, according to Brazie.

“The biggest part of the savings [for Bartow schools] thus far has come from scheduling and placing temperatures in accordance with district guidelines,” he said.
Brazie is pleased with the savings so far but knows that figure needs to keep climbing.

“While the amount thus far is nice, and we are trending upwards, there is still a lot of work to do,” he said. “My feelings regarding the savings are optimistic and show that we are on the right track.”

The costs of the Cenergistic program are coming from the existing utility budgets, Brazie said. The savings are “guaranteed to more than pay for the program,” while any additional savings can be used for other needs.

“Money that is not spent on utilities can be used elsewhere to benefit the district as a whole,” he said.

Many organizations have credited the conservation program with allowing them to keep personnel and maintain programs that otherwise would have fallen victim to budget cuts, he said.

Besides helping the school system, the energy program “benefits the community by showing that the district is a good steward of the tax dollars it receives,” Brazie said.
The program also is sustainable for years, and the company provides free support after the contract ends, as long as the organization continues to follow the program, he added.

Though the program is off to a good start, Brazie still has goals he wants to meet.

“As the energy program grows and awareness increases, we hope to develop an energy conservation mindset amongst students, faculty and staff,” he said. “And finally, from an environmental standpoint, the greenest energy is energy not used.”

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