Did You Know That Energy Costs In Schools Are Second Only to Salaries? Divert Energy Money to Reinvest in Education
Education Facilities Managers face an unusual problem. They lack the funding to implement energy efficiency programs and initiatives, but they continue to struggle with gaining support for these programs. In reality, energy costs are the second-largest cost for schools besides faculty salaries. As a result, savings and energy use are tantamount to freeing and reclaiming capital for reinvestment in education, and education Facilities Managers need to understand why.
Education Facilities Managers Struggle with Shrinking Budgets
K-12 Schools in the United States spend more than $8 billion annually on energy, but only 25 percent of these costs are used for smart energy improvements. Energy improvements could save up to $1.5 billion each year, and enhance learning environments. At the same time, Facilities Managers in educational institutions are being forced to figure out ways to do more with less. Employee pensions are taking up more of the school's annual operating budget, and the sizes of some schools are expanding at a rate that's almost unsustainable. Additionally, there are many misconceptions and myths about energy efficiency in schools.
For example, school Facilities Managers may not view energy conservation as a way to save money, and others may think energy efficiency is merely an added measure with a political motive. Even brand-new schools are not necessarily energy-efficient, and those with automated energy controls, like occupant-sensing lighting, can still be wasting energy. Consider how per-pupil spending has changed over recent years, as explained by the National Center for Education Statistics in the following graphic:
Fluctuations in per-pupil spending allude to higher costs, but budgets have continued to shrink. The only solution is to reduce expenses where possible to try to overcome the inflation of per-student spending. This makes it almost impossible for K-12 schools to invest in energy efficiency programs, but reducing energy costs in schools is key to all future reinvestments.
Savings in Energy Costs in Schools Enable a Reinvestment in Education
Savings in energy costs in schools translate into direct savings for the annual operating budget, and as a result, these funds can be funneled back into textbooks, teacher pensions, and additional extracurricular activities. As explained by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Smart Schools program, changes in behavior alone can amount to savings of thousands of dollars per year. Further, as outlined by NREL in their “Myths About Energy In Schools,” the Seattle School District was able to save $20,000 per year just by turning off lights in the vending machines. Other schools that embraced energy efficiency earlier, like Daniel Boone High School in Washington County, Tennessee, has realized a 34-percent reduction in annual energy costs since 1995. Also, the value of cost savings grows with the age of energy efficiency improvements.
How to Successfully Divert the Most Money through Energy Efficiency Upgrades
- Apply for ENERGY STAR designation, reports Xcel Energy.
- Benchmark past energy use to prioritize energy efficiency upgrades.
- Validate performance since, as explained by Fiona Burlig of Forbes, schools may realize as little as 24 percent of projected cost savings.
- Take advantage of an embedded Energy Specialist to guarantee success.
- Start small, as the Seattle School District did by simply turning off the lights in vending machines.
- Retrofit facility assets were possible.
- Get students and faculty involved in energy efficiency goals.