How a Conservation Program Can Lower Energy Costs for Your District Even Amid Lower Utility Bills
The pandemic environment of 2020 is requiring significant adjustments to all aspects of facilities planning, so riding the wave of any positive news seems like an opportunity to focus on the more pressing issues.
Energy expenses have undergone especially odd changes amid the chaos of 2020. The spread of COVID-19 prompted many facilities to change hours, limit capacity or close at various levels across the country. At the same time, oil and gas prices plummeted to historic lows in some cases, resulting in many facilities paying pennies on the dollar for their energy use compared to previous years.
Under normal times, these trends would be welcome relief for business administrators. A temporary reprieve in energy costs is certainly a pleasant surprise for most, but these are not projected to be long-term trends. An effective energy management program is still necessary to lower energy costs for your district or organization over the long-term.
(Related: How COVID-19 Might Impact the 2020-2021 School Year)
How COVID Is Affecting Facilities
One would think with states restricting the number of building occupants that organizations would save significant funds, powering buildings at less than full capacity for fewer hours. After all, schools closed for the start of the new academic year don’t have to worry about running systems, and facilities open at reduced hours don’t have to run air conditioning all day anymore, right?
It’s not that simple. While lower occupancy may allow a lower energy output (in many cases facilities will still need to operate at full power, quickly offsetting any benefits of reduced capacity), extra precautions are necessary to make facilities safe for the occupants who do show up.
Organizations need to invest in cleaning products (e.g., hand sanitizers, disinfectant sprays, deep cleaning products), personal protective equipment for staff and additional staff to monitor and protect occupant health where necessary — expenses that could add millions to the current budget.
With regard to equipment, HVAC systems may need modifications or upgrades to effectively protect occupants. All systems need to be carefully scheduled to provide the amount of ventilation recommended by new ASHRAE and health department guidelines — guidelines that have changed throughout the pandemic. With facilities largely unoccupied and dormant since March, water systems may need flushing and treatment to prevent the possibility of Legionnaires’ Disease.
For a more in-depth look at how facilities should safely reopen, read the white paper authored by Cenergistic’s EVP and Chief Engineer, Jack Bullock, P.E., C.E.M., B.E.S.A.
Why Are Energy Prices Low?
The oil industry managed a minor rebound from an all-time low during the height of lockdown, but experts predict prices will remain low for the foreseeable future. This significant drop in price stems from multiple factors across the world of nonrenewable energy.
In March, as energy demand plummeted in light of a worldwide lockdown, Saudi Arabia and Russia flooded the market with discounted oil. This Saudi-Russian mini-trade war caused energy prices across the world to drop into a free fall.
The effects of this global feud exacerbated the energy disaster at home. The drop in worldwide demand and flooding the global energy supply led to a major drop in U.S. energy exports — leading to near-calamity for the American oil and natural gas industries.
While good for consumers, this isn’t a long-term price drop. Nonrenewable energy prices are notoriously volatile, and factors could change within the next few months. Having a long-term plan is key to keep lower energy costs for your district or organization when energy costs inevitably bounce back.
An Effective Energy Management Program Can Further Lower Energy Costs for Your District or Organization
To fully recognize the benefits of minimal energy prices and take advantage of reduced hours while ensuring occupant safety, you need to have a proven energy management program in place to optimize how and when systems run.
Cenergistic has 34 years’ experience squeezing every penny of savings possible, and nobody’s better at unoccupied building setbacks. When facilities run at pre-pandemic levels once again and energy prices stabilize, having an established conservation program already in place will position your organization for long-term savings.
For more information, contact Cenergistic today by visiting Cenergistic online or calling 1-855-798-7779.