December 12, 2019
Energy Conserved Translates to Cutting Carbon Emissions by 7%.
EduCon Energy Inc. and Gaston County Schools have partnered together since July 2017 to save more than 16 million gallons of water and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 11.5 million pounds. The goal of the program is to adopt and implement energy consumption strategies and save school resources amidst rising utility rates.
Gaston County Schools buildings cover 5.5 million square feet at its 54 schools, and the school system is one of the largest electricity clients in the county. With a behavior-based approach, EduCon’s energy program is designed to establish energy policies and guidelines, audit and evaluate systems, implement proven strategies to reduce consumption, monitor usage and cost, and communicate directly with school leadership.
“This program helps to create an awareness that we can do better when it comes to energy,” says Morgen Houchard, Ed.D., executive director, auxiliary services, Gaston County Schools. “You get what you measure. Saving on utility costs amid rising rates was our highest priority at the onset of the program, but reducing energy consumption is simply the right thing to do. I want our students to inherit a healthy place to live.”
Measurable Results in Energy Conservation
Results from the period of July 2017 to June 2019 include:
- 9% decrease in electricity usage consumption
- Decreased carbon emissions by 11,546,207 pounds (or 5,237 metric tons), which is equal to planting 1,574 acres of trees or eliminating 770 automobiles.
- Almost 13% decrease in water usage. This saved more than 16 million gallons of water over two years.
At the start of the program, EduCon worked with Gaston County Schools to train two new energy manager positions. By closely monitoring utility bills, Gaston County’s energy managers have identified inaccuracies, including wastewater fees incorrectly applied to irrigation systems at high school sports fields and secured reimbursement for costs related to major water leaks. An energy manager visits each Gaston County school during after-school hours at least once every six weeks.
The Key to Energy Conservation Success
“The key to success with this type of program depends on the degree of participation from all of the stakeholders, including maintenance, district administration, school staff members and students,” says Andrew LaRowe, president of EduCon. “This commitment has been very evident with Gaston County Schools, and we’re thrilled with the progress made to-date. The beauty of this behavioral-based program is that it accomplishes both goals — reducing costs, especially in light of rising rates and fees, and having a positive impact on the environment.”
For Southwest Middle School, utility bills come directly out of the school’s operating budget. When Cindy Hester, principal of Southwest Middle School, receives the monthly audit report of her school, she communicates with teachers and staff on what they can do to improve based on recommendations in the report. To make sure that the county’s energy guidelines are followed, she’s tasked specific people to be responsible for certain protocols.
“These dollars come down to things we could be doing that directly benefit the students such as hiring more teachers,” says Ms. Hester. “People don’t understand how much we were paying in energy bills. Many of the changes sound like small things, but collectively, they’ve made a big difference. Taking care of our school is a group effort.”
The energy conservation partnership between EduCon and Gaston County Schools is now in its third year of a three-year contract.