Guest Author: Katie Kershman, Brendle Group
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that K-12 schools waste, on average, 30 percent of their energy through inefficient buildings. This translates to high energy bills for schools with limited resources and concerns about their outdated lighting, heating, and cooling, which often affect student learning. Because K-12 schools are part of its mission to improve efficient consumption of energy in all sectors, the Colorado Energy Office’s (CEO) Energy Savings for Schools (ESS) Program is underway with more than 20 schools currently enrolled and room to serve 15 more this year.
“The ESS program builds off many years of the CEO’s programmatic work in the K-12 area. Schools across Colorado have been able to save energy and money through a variety of offerings, and now they are part of this program to bring all available resources to bear on those schools with the greatest needs,” Michael Turner, Energy Efficiency Programs Manager for the Colorado Energy Office, explained.
Through the program, schools receive:
• On-site energy and water audits from an energy engineer
• Evaluation of renewable energy opportunities
• Technical support to determine what opportunities make the most sense and how to get them done
• Implementation support and help identifying existing funding and financing options to get projects completed
• Recognition for a school’s efforts and opportunities to engage students
When a new school joins the program, the ESS team works with the school to collect and review building utility data (electricity, natural gas, and water). A team of energy and water efficiency experts reviews the data and schedules an on-site assessment of the school.
“Reviewing utility data before a site visit gives us insight into how a building is performing and areas of concern so that when we visit, we can focus on those areas, as well as staff concerns, and customize opportunities to meet those concerns,” Energy Efficiency Engineer, John Butler described.
After the site visit, the energy engineer prepares a customized report with recommendations for the school. “We prepare our reports with the aim to help each school prioritize strategies and next steps,” Butler said. “And the report is only the first step. We work closely with school staff to identify what makes the most sense and help them navigate the process of getting projects done. Sometimes this means helping schools identify funding or soliciting and reviewing bids from contractors.”
To help fund recommended projects, ESS staff consider other CEO programs as well as local utility rebates and other state and local programs that may apply.
“There are no direct monetary costs for a school to participate in the ESS Program. The only costs are associated with staff time to interact with the ESS team and any costs to implement projects after utility rebates and other funding and financing have been applied,” Turner said. “The ESS Program supports, and in turn is supported by, a number of CEO and other related programs including the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency for Schools (REEES) loan program, Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs), High Performing School Program (HPSP), Energy Performance Contracting (EPC), and the Renew Our Schools Program (RNOS).”
CEO is actively recruiting schools from Colorado’s rural and low-income areas to participate. To learn more about the ESS Program visit bit.ly/CEOenergysavings or contact the program manager, Susan Blythe:
(970) 207-0058 ext. 310