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School Board mulling $600K+ energy program

Claims it can save up to 30 percent on schools’ utility costs

The King George School Board is mulling a proposal from a company that says it can save the division 20 percent to 30 percent on its utility costs, proposing a net savings to the division of $4.2 million over the next 10 years.
The company, Energy Education, Inc., estimates that over the 10-year timeframe, the division would pay about $869,383 toward the company’s program costs, including $600,000 in fees to the company, $205,600 for a stipend/salary for a part-time position of an ‘energy education specialist,’ $31,000 for conference travel for that person hired, and about $32,783 for software costs.
A commitment to energy conservation would need to be made by the division leadership and its employees in order to reap savings on utility bills, which in King George are primarily electricity costs for lighting, heating and cooling.
Energy Education, Inc. provides such a program. Its proposal booklet estimates $4.2 million in division utility savings over the next 10 years. That baseline figure used is $1.4 million, taken from the 2009-10 original budget. But that figure was too high and subsequently cut last month.
Prior to the 2009-10 fiscal year’s end on June 30, the School Board’s utility line of $1,429,515 was cut by a $250,000 transfer, with School Board Chairman Lynn Pardee telling supervisors on June 1 the surplus was due to savings realized from utilities due to more efficient systems at the new high school.

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THE PITCH    
Regardless of the starting point, Energy Education, Inc. stresses that its comprehensive recommendations, when implemented, will save 20 percent to 30 percent off the division’s utility bills. The company says that allows the savings dollars to be redirected toward other programs that focus on kids.
Two retired school division superintendents, Carl O’Dell and Blaine Dugan, pitched the presentation at last week’s meeting on June 28, telling the School Board about their current jobs with Energy Education, Inc., an energy management company that specializes in implementing people-driven conservation programs.  
The company guarantees that the annual energy savings by the division will cover the cost of implementing its energy program, or it will refund the difference.
The firm incorporates use of software to measure, manage and save costs by tracking utility usage and costs.
The company requires the division to hire and maintain a new position for an energy-education-specialist, saying it could be part-time at a first-year annualized salary of $18,000, which it says includes $5,000 for night, weekend and holiday work.

 

FAST TRACK    
The firm would provide its process free to the division for the first four months. During that ‘fast track’ period, the company would assist the school division in filling the new position, including helping with posting and interviewing, and saying the selection would be a joint decision.
Including all costs, the net savings to the school division is estimated at $36,000 alone for those first four months. At the end of that initial four-month period, the supplied software must be paid for at a cost of $13,950. In addition, the division would begin paying $150,000 to the company for each of the next four years, along with an estimated $3,000 for its new energy education specialist to travel to Energy Education, Inc. conferences, and about $2,100 annually for software fees after the initial purchase noted.
After four years of payments adding up to $600,000 to Energy Education, Inc., the company says that it would continue to provide support with their engineers’ rotating visits, as long as the program is kept in place, supplying data with the software and the division’s energy education specialist, and that person’s participation in their conferences.
Energy Education, Inc. says its management process trains client personnel to implement behavioral and organizational changes that substantially reduce energy consumption without having to buy new equipment.
The company was started more than 20 years ago, and its client list includes primarily school divisions and churches.  
School Board member Renee Parker asked why the company did not also pitch to local governments. Blaine responded, saying, “I get asked this all the time.  Hopewell, that city manager has called me 10 times. It’s part of our policy that we don’t. I don’t know if I’m supposed to say this publicly or not — because it’s too political — someone brings you in and then the next year — I think you understand where I’m coming from.”

WHAT’S NEXT?    
There is no telling whether School Board members embraced the idea or hated it, since there was no discussion following the presentation. After only a few questions during the pitch, there was no public discussion, and Parker, who was presiding, immediately moved on to the next agenda item.
Discussion of the company’s proposal, which is supposedly valid until August 13, may come at its next meeting scheduled on July 19. Dugan suggested the School Board could put it on its next agenda as an action item, saying he would be present to answer any questions, if so.
But, prior to award of a four-year service contract, the Virginia Public Procurement Act would likely require the School Board to seek additional proposals from companies offering similar services.
Some of those companies can be found through an online search.  

OTHER COMPANIES     
A quick online search turned up other companies involved in the same business.  
Schools for Energy Efficiency® (SEE) is one such company that says it offers a comprehensive program to help K-12 schools save energy and money by changing behavior throughout the district.  SEE provides a systemized plan, awareness materials, training, and utility tracking for immediate and sustainable savings. The SEE program describes itself online as “a national award-winning, comprehensive program designed for K-12 schools to save energy and money by changing behavior throughout the district. Savings are immediate and sustainable through our unique approach using strategies for both efficient operations and engaging energy awareness materials for staff and students. The SEE program provides a multi-year plan with training and support for implementation managed by the school district.”


FREE PROGRAMS     
There are also free programs.  One is the Alliance to Save Energy (ASE) organization.  
ASE provides an online manual geared for school divisions wishing to save money and energy.
The manual was prepared by Princeton Energy Resources International for the US Department of Energy.
School Operations and Maintenance: Best Practices for Controlling Energy Costs discusses setting up an effective energy management program and winning management support, provides a wide range of technical opportunities, and provides summaries of six school districts that used it.
The Alliance to Save Energy participated in the preparation of the manual, which was also co-sponsored by the Association of School Business Officials International, the Higher Education Facilities Managers and the National School Plant Administrators Association.

ENERGY STAR      
The Energy Star program is free and it has a large menu of offerings for the public sector including K-12 schools.  It offers free tools and resources to help schools save money and improve energy efficiency.  Those resources can be easily accessed online.
But Energy Education, Inc. says it’s more than simply turning off lights and computers and other energy-saving methods that can be found on free lists.
It is obvious that sustained energy and cost savings would require a long-term commitment to changing behaviors and incorporating new habits. That might be attempted first without spending money to do it through awarding a costly contract.
The King George division prides itself on having school-based management and also school and department-based budget management.  Another option would be for the School Board to direct Superintendent Candace Brown to set monthly benchmarks and goals expected to be achieved and directing that principals and department heads incorporate the numerous energy saving ideas from such manuals designed specifically for K-12 schools.

Phyllis Cook

Staff reporter


 

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