Four strategies for saving money through sustainable energy

Upfront investments pay off in the long term

More higher education institutions have found that going green helps save some green, despite upfront investments.

As state funding lags across the nation, schools have turned to sustainable energy solutions in order to cut the cost of power. Those proving successful, writes Stefanie Botelho for University Business, combine both campus-wide mechanical improvements and PR campaigns that encourage faculty and staff to buy in.

Managing university energy costs

  1. California State University at Fullerton now saves $445,000 annually after cutting energy use by 70%, or 3.3 million kilowatt hours, by implementing an environmental plan about five years ago. The university paid a vendor $3 million to install controllers in 700 LED lights across campus, which dim and brighten in response to sunlight and can be remotely controlled by staff.

  2. At Oklahoma State University, officials reduce air conditioning energy use over the summer by consolidating summer courses into a single building and shutting down the campus library HVAC at night. Residence halls run energy savings orientations to introduce students to the program and officials award up to $10,000 annually to enact student-suggested sustainability programs on campus.

  3. Valencia College uses energy more efficiently by matching resources to building occupancy. An occupancy reporting system ensures extra temperature controls and lighting are used only when necessary. Officials also installed low-flow mechanisms on plumbing. Simplifying control systems improved employee morale, says Allen Bottoroff, VP of facilities. "We also give our techs a voice in the process about which system we go with. This helps to create true ownership," he says.

  4. Officials at Hinds Community College have saved nearly $8 million in energy costs since 2008 by stressing student and faculty engagement in sustainability programs. They ask students to report energy misuse—such as parking lot lights left on during the day—and staff to change their habits, such as turning off their computers when leaving for the evening.

"Accountability is key," says Jason Pope, director of sustainability, adding, "Making a presence and checking behind folks is critical to maintaining this type of program" (Botelho, University Business, 10/21).

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