4 Steps for Developing an Integrated Energy Management Strategy in Education
Nearly 80 percent of businesses view reducing electricity costs as essential to staying competitive. In education, that translates to achieving cost savings year over year, budgeting effectively to implement new programs and initiatives, and funding sustainable facility improvements that can attract prospective students.
Most of the decision makers in education would likely say they are taking steps to manage costs and work toward those goals, but for many, the efforts are disjointed — or in some cases, counterproductive.
That’s because each effort is often implemented at a different time, by a different department, and measured by its own metrics, rather than as part of the bigger picture.
These efforts may even be competing for resources in a struggle that resembles a tug-of-war. Consider a school in the Midwest that has a goal of improving energy efficiency within its annual budget. A purchasing manager secures the gas and electric contracts, trying to negotiate a better deal every few years.
Meanwhile, two facilities managers are tasked with improving energy efficiency by replacing outdated heating and cooling systems and upgrading indoor and outdoor lighting. Another staff member with a background in electrical engineering implements a building automation system.
Then, after the university administration decides it’s time to get serious about sustainability, it begins working with several contractors to build on-site solar generation.
While each of these efforts can benefit the school, to complete all the improvements at once, the school must divert funding away from other areas of the budget.
If all these efforts had been developed and executed together through a long-term, integrated energy management strategy, the school could have funded its efficiency upgrades from the money it saved each year by generating its own solar power.
Developing such a strategy requires time and planning, but once your school’s leadership team has committed to it, you’ve already overcome the biggest hurdle. Here are four steps to take next:
1. Analyze Your Needs
Determine the most important priorities for the project. For example, do you want to:
- Improve operational efficiency by driving down the cost of your systems and processes?
- Reduce operational costs through energy savings?
- Reduce your carbon footprint to improve the public perception of your school?
Whatever your goals, be sure they are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-oriented.
2. Develop a Customized Strategy
Now that you have established energy management goals, determine what elements you’ll need to have in place to achieve them. The most effective strategies use a multi-faceted approach that addresses all key areas of energy usage. For many schools, this includes examining how you use:
- Power purchasing
- Technology (such as building automation systems)
- Solar, wind or other renewable energy sources (may be generated on-site or purchased from a third party)
- Gas purchasing
- Energy efficiency measures (such as upgrading to more efficient lighting)
Depending on your needs, you may need to work with experts who can provide recommendations for each area. Working with a provider that specializes in integrated energy management solutions can make this process easier by offering a single point of contact who has access to or can pull in an internal team of experts as needed.
There are a number of products and services that can help you reach your goals without overwhelming your own in-house resources. For instance, depending on your school’s location, you may have the option to purchase your electricity in a way that is similar to diversifying stocks in your 401(k).
You may also be able to fund your sustainability initiatives without making a large upfront capital investment. Constellation’s Efficiency Made Easy® program allows schools to build efficiency upgrades into a power contract and pay for them over time, using the energy savings they achieve each year.
Once your project is up and running, take time to regularly review results and analyze performance. Here are a few key metrics that can help you gauge the success of your energy management efforts:
- Reduction in total energy usage year-over-year
- Percentage of total energy usage generated from renewable sources
- Total energy cost savings
- Carbon emissions avoided (you can translate this into easy-to-understand terms using the EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator)
Developing and implementing an integrated energy management strategy takes more time and planning upfront, but it’s well worth the effort. When everyone within your school is aligned on your energy management goals and what it will take to achieve them, you’ll begin to see progress much faster. Even better, you won’t have to play a game of tug-of-war each time someone decides it’s time to roll out a new initiative.
Constellation has helped hundreds of schools reduce energy usage and increase profitability by implementing an integrated energy management strategy. To learn more, contact us.