Saline Area Schools are jumping at the chance to recoup money that would ordinarily go toward paying the utility bill.
The Board of Education approved a motion Tuesday night to allow Superintendent Scot Graden to enter into negotiations with Energy Education to obtain an energy savings contract. If all goes according to the proposal, the district could realize more than $4 million in savings over the next 10 years.
Energy Education, Inc., is a Dallas, TX-based behavioral-based energy conservation and efficiency company. It work with districts’ existing equipment, including computers, lighting, heating, air conditioning blowers to see how well they are being used and if reductions can be found.
The board voted 5-1 to allow Graden to begin the talks. Board President Lisa Slawson cast the dissenting vote based on the timing of the proposal. She also said she was dubious of the monetary savings.
The district has been working on cutting energy costs for several years. It has cut the per square foot cost by 40 percent since 2008, thanks to the work of Director of Facilities Doug Bacon.
Dennis McComb, a former superintendent at Milan Area Schools, represented Energy Education. He came to extol the virtues of the company and share what it did for Milan Schools and what it could do for Saline.
McComb said when Milan opened its new high school officials there thought they had an efficient building. Energy Education brought in technology experts who went through the building, looked at the software and equipment and ended up reducing consumption by 30 percent, he said.
“Energy Education predicts you could save 20-25 percent,” McComb said.
The company comes as an associate, not an overseer.
“They don’t come in to take over, but to compliment the staff,” he said.
The program offer is after the review of existing equipment, which means auditing all the systems to see when units are used, what type of power is consumed at non-use times, the district would purchase software to monitor consumption. A person would be hired as a part-time employee to monitor the data, which is shared with the district, McComb said.
“Other companies send lists, but they don’t bring in experts,” he said. “You keep the data, Energy Education looks for anomalies, and the data is yours.”
In the first year, the company anticipates the district would save $318,000. After the costs are taken out, the net savings would be $111,230.
After the first four years are complete and the district remains a client, the net savings rise begin at $425,000 and reach $704,407 by the 10th year. At Milan, the district saved $170,000 in the first year which helped the fund balance.
The potential savings seemed too good to be true and Graden asked if these numbers were real and McComb assured him they were.
As for behavior changes, McComb said this would be a matter of training staff to shut down computers, personal appliances and lights when they leave the rooms. The company won’t get involved with personal appliances.
“Energy Education doesn’t sacrifice comfort,” McComb said.
The energy specialist will play a key role in communicating the changes that need to be made, McComb said. A teacher or staff member would be a likely candidate for the job.
By looking for simple ways to cut energy consumption, the savings really add up, McComb said.
“Nickels and dimes, thousands of times,” he said.
Students are often eager to get on board as well because of the green aspect of the program, McComb said.
Trustee Todd Carter asked about the older buildings that don’t have the sophisticated equipment and McComb replied the company can work with any equipment.
“We’ve seen all kinds of buildings, all kinds of equipment,” he said. “If the school replaces a boiler, the school gets the credit, not the company. Any equipment changes you make, you get the credit.”
Slawson thought the company was getting more than the district was saving, but Secretary David Holden said it was typical for companies to front load their take.
Trustee David Zimmer like the concept, but expressed a desire for due diligence and explore what other companies can offer.
“If we are going to spend $800,000 over four years, I want to see what the market has out there,” he said.
McComb said Graden has done due diligence, and that Energy Education is the only company that works with behaviors to help cut consumption. The benefits don’t stop after the first 48 months he said.
“After four years it only takes a phone call and we’re there,” McComb said. “You are spending that money already. We want to share in the savings. The longer you delay there will be reduced savings.”
According to a fact sheet from the company, Milan has saved nearly $2 million in energy costs in 66 months. The company states it has saved its 70-plus clients more that $154 million.
“I don’t see a down side," Carter said. “We are not going to lose money.”