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3. Use energy managers, management firms and committees – when and why!

The level of energy management expertise needed in each district will vary, depending on the size and organizational complexity of the district and the disposition of the board. But, without fail, someone within the district should be designated as the advocate for energy management. This person should understand the basic concepts of energy-using systems and energy accounting. Even more importantly, this person must be a strong communicator with excellent organizational skills.

Whether the energy manager is part-time or full-time, and whether they have a little or a lot of experience and knowledge of energy programs will often govern how much external expertise will be needed as the district seeks to control energy costs. The energy manager will need to compile energy consumption data and work with maintenance, facility management staff and other operational personnel to develop energy-efficient operation and maintenance procedures. This person will need to prepare regular reports to the board and assist in developing cost and savings information about new initiatives that are being considered.

If your district is small you might want to hire a part-time energy manager or share the expense of one with a neighboring district. In the smallest districts, a teacher or administrator from within the district is given this role in addition to their other duties. Their time will be limited. Therefore, help from inside and outside the district may be needed to produce the desired results.

Energy Manager. If your district pays a demand rate for electricity, which is an amount that utility companies charge for energy use that exceeds some predetermined amount, at one or more campuses and the energy expenses are more than $200,000 annually for the entire district, you should consider designating or hiring an energy manager. Demand rates need to be carefully monitored to ensure that energy use does not spike above the stipulated rate that triggers additional charges on the utility bill. And at $200,000 per year in energy costs, someone should be checking the bills for errors and making sure that everyone in the district is doing their part to conserve energy and dollars.

The energy manager should monitor the energy performance of the district’s facilities. By tracking performance, this person will be able to identify potential problem areas and recommend solutions before they become urgent.

The energy manager can set up a system to monitor usage and track progress of any energy project. There are a number of commercially available software packages that will enable the district to maintain historic utility cost and usage data. This will enable the district to spot unfavorable trends and invoicing errors, improve the utility budget planning process, evaluate costs for proposed facility additions or deletions and assess the cost impact of various rates.

If the district does not wish to purchase and train on new software, it can use a spreadsheet to track energy use and cost.

In some cases, by simply reviewing monthly energy bills, an energy manager can more than pay for his or her salary.

Energy Management Firm. The Texas Education Code allows school districts to contract with energy management firms, which are companies that specialize in controlling energy costs, for energy conservation measures such as insulation, storm windows or doors, automatic energy control systems, efficient lighting fixtures and energy recovery systems. School districts are allowed to finance these conservation measures with a lease/purchase contract, more commonly referred to as a performance contract, when dealing with energy retrofits.

By contracting with an energy management firm to design and establish an energy management and accountability program, the Corpus Christi Independent School District (CCISD) along the coast of Texas was able to conserve energy and save millions of dollars in energy use.

The 1995 CCISD contract was divided into four phases, each lasting approximately one year. CCISD self-funded all four phases and each phase provided additional savings for the district. As part of the contract, the firm installed an energy management system throughout the district, upgraded all lighting and replaced outdated and non-functioning equipment. The energy management firm guaranteed a savings of $76,989 annually for eight years. The first phase was completed in 1996, and the district reports that guaranteed savings were exceeded. The fourth and final phase began in January 1999 and is now complete.

CCISD also has a contract with another firm for audits of electric, gas and water/wastewater billings. The audits identify overcharges and secure refunds. An annual savings of $60,000 is projected.

Energy Management Committee. Support of the director of maintenance, custodial director, business manager, director of food services, school principals, key assistant superintendents, teachers and students is critical to program success. Strategies must be in place to convince these participants that they have a vested interest in the success of the energy program. An energy committee composed of representatives from these groups is frequently set up to guide the decision-making process and to enlist broad-based support for the program.

The Marshall ISD in East Texas has been very successful in saving energy dollars. Their energy costs decreased 50 percent, while their floor space increased by 134,559 square feet. In 1984 the cost of heating and cooling amounted to 95 cents per square foot. By 1997 the district was able to reduce the cost to 48 cents per square foot. Their actual energy savings have amounted to $2,834,859. This amount does not include additional dollars saved in cost avoidance.

Marshall ISD implemented several strategies to achieve an effective energy management program from 1984-1997. One of the strategies was to establish an energy management team. Every member of the maintenance staff who has anything significant to do with energy consumption is included on the maintenance energy management team.

Utility Companies. Utility companies can also be a good source of information. Most companies will send representatives to work with your district and provide tips on how to conserve energy. As a major user of energy in their service area, it is in the best interest of the utility company to ensure that you are efficient, so they will have the capacity to serve other customers.

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 energy manager job description