When it comes to improving energy efficiencies in schools, a lot of attention has been given to capital projects—especially retrofits and green building. Recently the legislature in Washington considered $3 billion for retrofits for schools. Nationally, House Bill 2187—the 21st Century Green High-Performing Public School Facilities Act —which passed out of the United States House of Representatives last week , would allocate $6 billion for retrofits to improve energy efficiencies in local schools.
All good stuff. But what about achieving energy savings through the improvement of operations? Puget Sound Energy has a program to train and fund staff that work on wringing out as much savings as possible from better resource management. They are called Resource Conservation Specialists.
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The Seattle Public Schools have two such Resource Conservation Specialists, focusing on operations with an eye toward saving money and reducing emissions. The district has already shown almost $350,000 in savings from their efforts to reduce use of electricity, natural gas and improving water, sewer and waste systems. The Resource Conservation Specialist position is funded, in part, by a program created by Puget Sound Energy.
Eventually the school district will assume the costs of supporting the work of the specialists through the savings realized by lower energy bills.
Saving energy isn’t just about buildings. School district staff have to learn how to properly run the buildings. The Resource Conservation Specialists help prevent buildings that are green or retrofitted from losing least-cost efficiencies through operator error. Energy efficient cooling is great but not if its cooling empty buildings during the summer.
Coupling all the proposed capital dollars with partnerships like the one between PSE and the Seattle Pubic Schools could go a long way to making sure expensive (but important) retrofits maximize potential.