Energy program gives Region 16 a surge in savings

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BEACON FALLS — Six months into an energy conservation and management program the savings for Region 16 are starting to pile up in more ways than one.

This spring, the Board of Education signed a contract with the Dallas-based Energy Education, an energy conservation company that trains its clients to implement behavioral and organizational changes in order to reduce energy consumption.

Over the first six months of the program, May through October, the board saved about $67,000 in its electricity bill compared to the same time period last year, a nearly 23 percent drop, according Mike Magas, energy specialist for Region 16.

The savings came in the face of a 3.4 percent increase in the district’s electric costs from last year, school officials added.

Along with the monetary savings on its electric bill, the district has also used 368,783 kilowatts less between May and October compared to last year. The savings in kilowatts, according to Magas, are equivalent to 216 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions being prevented, or 39 cars removed off the highway annually, or over 5,531 tree seedlings planted and grown in ten years.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” Magas told the board during its Nov. 17 meeting. “It’s going to continue to grow.”

The program focuses on cultural changes and making people more conscious of their energy use including simple steps like making sure the lights are turned off in classrooms when they’re not being used. The focus isn’t solely on electricity and as the season turns to winter attention will also be paid to conserving heating fuel.

“It’s a change in thinking, in attitude, in how we do simple things,” Magas said.

“The culture shifted and the whole paradigm shifted,” added Business Manager Hugh Potter, who researched the program prior to the board signing on with Energy Education.

Aside from an emphasis on conservation awareness, multiple audits of school buildings are done weekly, and an energy management system was installed in order to identify and rectify inefficiencies within the buildings.

“It’s a complete turn around from what we were doing last year,” Magas said.

If Energy Education’s projections hold true, this could be the beginning of significant savings to come.

The company projected that if the district followed the program it would achieve a gross savings of $3.8 million over the next 10 years. As part of the deal, Energy Education takes a percentage of the gross savings. The company’s fee is estimated at $475,000 based on projections.

After factoring in expenses, including Magas’ part-time salary, the company projected that the school district will net a savings of $3.1 million over 10 years.

The money saved this year won’t have an impact on the budget because school officials already built the savings into the budget based on the projections given by Energy Education.

Overall, the program received early rave reviews.

“I am gratified by the energy conservation success we have realized. Our partnership with Energy Education has led to a dramatic change in how we view energy consumption. While we believed we were doing a pretty good job of saving energy before, this program has taken us to a new level,” Magas said. “Our success is directly attributable to each and every member of our staff working as change agents, ensuring we use our resources responsibly. The dollars we’ve saved in just the first few months is a significant amount — it’s money we won’t have to cut from our budget.”