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1. Establish an energy policy and energy conservation plans for the district and individual campuses.

The board, superintendent, principals, teachers, students, cafeteria workers, facility managers and cleaning crews should all be involved in developing an energy policy and plan for your school or district. Problems must be prioritized and a process set in place to determine what changes can realistically be made through short- and long-term goals to increase energy efficiency in your buildings. Saving energy saves money and helps protect the environment. Be sure your message about saving energy is relayed to everyone. Call a special assembly, make posters for the halls, make reminder announcements on the public address system and write articles for the school newsletter. The program must be reinforced throughout the school year. Without reminders to save energy, your school’s occupants will fall back into old energy-wasting habits. The money saved is money that can be returned to the school for educational programs.

Obtain commitment from the top. Without a commitment from the school board and the superintendent, energy management either won’t get off the ground or may be abandoned at the first sign that someone in the district is unhappy with the program. The road to a successful energy management program begins with a strong signal from the board that energy efficiency is a district priority.

Formalize this commitment in a written policy statement that should cover a number of important points. A good policy:

  • Acknowledges the rising utility costs of the district and the necessity for energy cost controls.
  • Sets realistic and attainable goals and timelines for accomplishing these goals.
  • Applies to the entire district, not just one part, and requires a commitment from all staff and students.
  • Authorizes or designates an energy manager or advocate who answers directly to the superintendent and board.
  • Requires the preparation of an energy management plan for board approval that will keep the program visible, relevant and responsive.
  • Allots an energy management budget that is directly linked to expected savings.

The length and level of detail of the policy statement can vary, depending on the size and organizational complexity of the district and the disposition of the board.

Establish a realistic energy-saving goal. To set a goal, the board and administration must know what is happening today and what the experts say is possible if conditions are optimal. The goal should be realistic and attainable within a predetermined amount of time. The most desirable results having the greatest probability of being achieved should be defined. But, having a goal that is not known or understood by the people who control the light switches and thermostats is a sure-fire formula for failure. The policy must recognize that energy management is something everyone in the district, including staff and students, must be committed to accomplishing. In the American School and University Magazine’s 30th Annual School Maintenance and Operations Cost Study: Dwindling Support, the national cost for electricity, gas and other fuels ranged from 90 cents to $1.16 per square foot of facilities, or an average of approximately $1 per square foot. How does your district compare? How do individual buildings within your district compare? The U.S. Department of Energy provides some interesting statistics at: for example, nationally, energy use in schools is $100 per student per year. In Texas, the average is about $165 ($660 million in energy costs divided by 3.99 million students). This might indicate that Texas has room for improvement. Does your district have room for improvement?

Make energy-saving goals and strategies applicable to all. No group or organization should be exempt from the district’s energy management policies and goals. Certainly, there will be some areas of the district that use more energy than others. For example, certain career and technology-related programs use heavy equipment that, by nature, uses a significant amount of energy. Sports stadiums have lights that require a tremendous amount of power. While these are important activities, there are things that can and should be done to conserve energy, and everyone must understand his or her role in the process. And, by no means should the central administration office be exempt from conservation measures.

Designate an energy manager. Someone within the district or school needs to be a strong advocate for energy conservation. This person should understand the basic concepts of energy-using systems and energy accounting and, even more importantly, should possess strong communication and excellent organizational skills. The designated or hired energy manager usually reports to the superintendent and, from an organizational standpoint, should have sufficient authority to implement programs and obtain cooperation from district staff. Some of the problems that will arise if the energy manager does not have sufficient authority will come when difficult recommendations are made that will impact major functional areas of the district, like facility maintenance and operation or technology. Directors and managers of affected areas may be resistant to change, and the energy manager must have the authority to work with these people to resolve the issue in a way that meets their needs but still conserves energy.

One of the initial tasks of the energy manager includes compiling energy consumption data and working with the maintenance department and other operational personnel to develop energy-efficient operation and maintenance procedures for board approval.

The energy manager will regularly report to the board on the status of the program and on any new initiatives that are being considered. Program results are expected to be quantified in actual dollars saved as well as cost avoidance over the base year. This means that the manager will need to establish a tracking system for base-year costs and usage rates, so accurate savings estimates can be made.

Develop a plan that keeps the program visible, relevant and responsive. When you start an energy management program, make sure the staff and students are aware of the goal and plan. While the board may have established the policies, the superintendent, principals, teachers, students, cafeteria workers, facility managers and cleaning crew must all be involved in developing the plan. Brainstorm about ways to save energy in your school. Use experts from within your community to help you come up with ideas.

Maintain interest in the program by sending newsletters and memos noting the latest accomplishments. Also, implement an incentive program. You can have competition between campuses; the campus that achieves the goal first will be rewarded. This reward can be a plaque or some type of compensation for their efforts.

By keeping the program visible, you can continue to increase savings. If you continue to remind people of the program, they will continue to participate and come up with new ways to reduce energy. Involving the students will have an added advantage of fostering a sense of ownership of the building. Students will be less likely to vandalize facilities if they feel pride in their buildings.

In 1997, the Wichita Falls ISD in North Texas began the process of identifying the energy equipment upgrades and improvements needed to improve school operations and reduce costs. Working with Rebuild Texas, led by SECO, and Texas A&M University’s Energy Systems Laboratory, savings opportunities were identified through heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) system upgrades and modifications, including chiller replacements, air handling unit replacements, control system upgrades, energy management system installations and modifications, general lighting system upgrades, lighting controls, stadium lighting modification and upgrade, and gymnasium lighting retrofits.

The Wichita Falls ISD project has been monitored by Texas A&M University. The project cost $2.5 million and will pay for itself in less than ten years with annual savings of $293,090.

In February 2001, Wichita Falls ISD was honored by the U.S. Department Of Energy Rebuild America and Rebuild Texas for successfully completing a program to retrofit its existing schools. At this time, the Wichita Falls ISD schools have qualified as Energy Star Buildings. Final certification by a professional engineer is underway with guidance from Texas A&M University.

Link the budget to the plan. Sometimes it costs money to make money. Some energy savings cannot be achieved without investing in more energy-efficient equipment, in maintenance, in personnel or in monitoring systems. Because the idea is to save money and energy, whenever money is spent there should be a clear cost-benefit analysis that shows the expected return on the investment. The board should hold those responsible for implementation accountable for the results they promised.

The annual budget needs to contain funding to keep all equipment operating at peak efficiency through preventative maintenance and planned replacement. Keeping your facilities’ equipment operating efficiently can help hold down energy costs as well as improve indoor air quality and indoor comfort.

Budgeting for preventative maintenance will allow for needed repairs to equipment. By maintaining the equipment, you will increase its useful life and improve its performance. Budgeting for the planned replacement of equipment is a helpful way to reduce the need for bonds and other one-time, large expenditures. For example, expending $50,000 per year to systematically replace aging furnaces may be manageable, whereas a one-time expenditure of $1 million for 20 furnaces might require a bond.

Additional Resources:

Below is an additional resource you may find helpful. Information in the document and URL listed below are not necessarily endorsed by this agency, only provided as a resource.

Sample Policy Statement
(State Energy Conservation Office)