Energy savings plan brought to Austintown schools
By Susan Tebben
With new schools nearing completion, Austintown schools also will be turning over a new leaf in their energy use.
The school board recently approved a four-year contract with Cenergistics, Inc., formerly named Energy Education, to provide an energy program that school and company officials say will guarantee they get money back from the investment.
“They are providing a customized, comprehensive people-driven energy conservation program that focuses on changing human behavior to help school districts reduce their consumption of energy and water without any equipment upgrades,” said Mal Culp, supervisor of facilities and operations for the school district, in an email.
The 26-year-old company has 1,250 clients in the U.S., including school districts and businesses, and has saved clients about $3 billion, according to Jan Noel-Smith, spokesperson for Cenergistics.
“We train energy specialists to analyze and identify opportunities to save energy,” Noel-Smith said. “The program fees are paid for out of the savings, and the attraction is to save much more.”
The company plans to develop a customized plan for the schools to save money, preserve a quality learning environment, provide a positive environmental impact and increase energy awareness, according to Culp.
The costs vary by organization and Noel-Smith could not give an exact cost for the Austintown project but said there are many examples of organizations saving millions of dollars and achieving more than 100 percent returns during the energy analysis.
“The first few months will be a quick start program which will be fee-free, allowing us to generate some initial savings before we begin to pay for the services,” Culp said. “We ... will be guaranteed the savings to the level of covering the cost of the program. If the cost is not covered by savings we will be reimbursed by Cenergistics.”
Canfield Local Schools implemented the program three years ago and has had success.
“The amount of money that we didn’t pay in utility bills, energy costs ... is in the area of $460,000 over three years,” said Rich Archer, business manager for Canfield schools. “The company guarantees you will not pay money or they’ll send you a check. It’s really a win-win.”
The program will also allow for an on-site energy specialist who will act as not only an analyst and overseer, but also a liaison for students and teachers.
“Teachers and students aren’t going to see anything obviously change, except that they should be more comfortable,” Noel-Smith said. “But teachers and students will have someone to go to if it’s too cold or hot in a room, for example.”
The schools will have to hire an energy specialist, paid for through the savings of the program, and the company will also send a “rotating panel of experts” throughout the four years to make sure the plan is on track, according to Noel-Smith.