By EARL WATT
• Leader & Times
During the campaign for school board, Steve Helm made the statement that the district has not been able to prove that the energy saving program has conserved “one kilowatt hour of electricity or single BTU of gas.”
Brent Evans, who is in charge of the district’s energy-saving program, did present to the school board a report Feb. 7 that indicated the program has saved more than $1 million since 2007.
The district’s Cost Avoidance Program has not only saved money but has reduced the amount of energy consumed, meaning that the savings was not simply a reduction in energy rates.
For example, the district used 800,000 kilowatt hours in August of 2007. In 2010, that number was down to less than 600,000 kilowatt hours.
The same trend held for winter months.
The district used about 575,000 KWH in January 2007 but only 425,000 KWH in January 2010.
Electricity was not the only savings.
While the savings in actual therms was not as pronounced in gas usage, the dollars spent still decreased.
The most significant savings have been seen in November where $17,520 was spent on gas in 2006 and was down to $9,682 in 2010.
The program was established by a Wichita Falls, Texas company called Energy Education at a cost of $105,000 per year for three years. Additional costs include a software license of $1,000 per year and an on-site program administrator of $15,000 per year for a total cost of $121,000 per year.
The three-year contract is now over, and that will reduce the cost of the program by $105,000 per year.
By using the Cost Avoidance Program on energy, the district has been able to save $201,261 in its first year, $276,291 in its second, $353,755 in the third and with one month remaining in the fourth year has already saved $345,575 for a total of $1.18 million. After the costs of the program were deducted, the net savings to the district was $813,882.
“Our utility costs have gone down,” district finance director Jerry Clay said.
The focus of the savings comes from human management according to buildings and grounds director Alan Haskell. It involves shutting the lights out in empty classrooms, using thermostat controls to reduce heating and cooling costs, and putting timers on hot water heaters for sinks that are only used for washing hands during the day.
Other cost-saving measures include shutting off computers at night and unplugging refrigerators and other electrical devices that are not in use.
Energy Education also sent out technicians the first year of the program to make recommendations on other savings.
“They sent people that were certified specialists in mechanics,” Haskell said. “They went through our facilities and said, ‘Do this and that you will save money.’ Some things we did as our annual upgrade and maintenance. Others included a cost up front and were more expensive than we could afford. For instance, the commercial hot water heaters and smaller ones for hand sinks, we can put time pumps on it, most of them have circulating pumps. At night, you don’t need hot water to a hand sink. We shut those off and save money. We pay a little money up front, and after a year or two it pays for itself. For electrical lighting in bathrooms, we’ve put some motion detectors in. We can’t do it all at one time, but we are working toward that. If you have old non-efficient equipment, if you can replace that and get more energy efficient type of equipment you save money.”
As the savings continue, the district will still be able to utilize Energy Education as long as there is a program coordinator and the software license is maintained, but the $105,000 fee is no longer required. That means future savings will reduce the cost of operation of the district allowing the funds to be used for other needs.
“We won’t have to pay the annual fee but we get all the services we had before,” Haskell said. “It’s a win-win situation, and we are saving some trees.”