With bills growing and school budgets tightening, school districts are finding interesting new ways to save money. They’re saving energy.
Owatonna school district in Minnesota partnered with Texas-based Cenergistic (formerly Energy Education Inc) in 2011 to do just that. According to its company website, Cenergistic “builds customized, comprehensive, people-driven energy conservation programs that help organizations reduce their consumption of electricity, natural gas, fuel oil and water, allowing financial savings which can be invested in the lives of the people its clients serve, not utility companies.”
The district then hired Steve Stansberry, a former elementary school principal to get involved in the energy saving project and act as a part-time overseer. Stansberry meets with district officials once a week to brainstorm and discuss ideas, and works a few other half days during the week and on weekends. An important part of his role is to work on the weekends when he can observe school energy use at a time when it should be “shut down.”
“Our goal is to save the district a lot of money, and we are saving a lot of money,” he said.
Launched in May of 2011, the program run by Cenergistic has saved the district $264,096 in utility costs. The contract with Cenergistic spans over four years, and even with the expenses of the program and Stansberry’s payment, the school district has saved over $120,000.
Cenergistic will continue to provide services to the school district at no charge after the end of the four year contract. The company expects that over the next ten years, Owatonna school district will save about $2.7 million.
“It’s all behavioral change,” Stansberry said. “The program takes into account the differences in the climate, so if it’s a milder winter, they expect us to use less gas. This is a behavior-based program. It really looks at how you get teachers, custodians and cooks to think a little bit differently about their job.”