Energy savings program saving big bucks for school district

by MIKE LESKO | REPORTER Published:

Aurora -- The local school district has saved more than $83,000 between February and September 2012 thanks to an energy savings program, Superintendent Russ Bennett said last week.

"We are nearing our projected net savings for the first year in just the first eight months, so we are ahead of what was originally predicted," Bennett said.

Bennett said the district's projected net savings over 10 years is estimated to be $1.9 million, and the savings will be used for other districtwide program needs.

The idea for the energy savings program came from Bennett and Greg Pollock, the district's director of business affairs and transportation. In January 2012, the Board of Education listened to two presentations and approved a partnership with Energy Education, now known as Cenergistic.

Bennett said through the help of Cenergistic, the school district "has built a customized and sustainable energy conservation program that reduces consumption of electricity, natural gas and water through changes in organizational and human behavior."

Melissa Foster, a Spanish teacher at Aurora High School, serves as energy education specialist for the district, and Pollock oversees the program as a whole.

Foster conducts energy audits to ensure that students, staff and faculty are comfortable during class time and scheduled activities, and that energy is used only as necessary, Bennett said, while Cenergistic's conservation experts work closely with Foster and Pollock to audit buildings and train personnel to control energy use wherever possible.

TO VERIFY the program's effectiveness, identify further saving opportunities and measure success, he said Foster tracks energy consumption, including electricity, water, sewer and natural gas, using third-party energy-accounting software from EnergyCAP, Inc.

By analyzing energy use, he said EnergyCAP helps Foster and Cenergistic quickly identify and correct any wasteful energy use that needs to be addressed.

"All costs of the energy education program come from the existing utility budget, with savings guaranteed to more than pay for the program," Bennett said. "Additional savings can be reserved for other parts of the budget. In addition, the conservation program is sustainable for years.

"We are making a concerted effort to change behaviors and make all staff more aware of potential energy savings," he added, noting the success of the program is due to a total team approach, including the district's maintenance, custodial and teaching staffs.

"We have not gotten down to the student level just yet," Bennett said, "but in the future, we hope to capitalize on enthusiastic students wanting to help us conserve energy."

Prior to the two-week winter break, district staff members were asked to turn off and unplug energy using items; clean out and unplug small appliances; turn off and unplug power cords and computers; and turn heat thermostats back to 55 degrees.

He said custodians will return before school resumes to make sure the temperatures are comfortable.

Email: mlesko@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4187

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