BY LAUREN HENRY
The Greeneville City Schools System is leading the state in energy management.
The school system is one of only three in the State of Tennessee to have ENERGY STAR-certified facilities and the only system in the state with all six school buildings having received the designation.
Greeneville High, Greeneville Middle, Hal Henard Elementary, Tusculum View Elementary, EastView Elementary, and Highland Elementary are all ENERGY STAR-certified.
ENERGY STAR certification recognizes the top 25 percent energy-efficient buildings in the nation within the classification of school facilities.
"An ENERGY STAR-certified facility meets strict energy performance standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and uses less energy, is less expensive to operate, and causes fewer greenhouse gas emissions than its peers," according to the ENERGY STAR website.
Truman Atkins, Ed.D., regional president of Energy Education, attended last week's city school board meeting to present the board with the ENERGY STAR building certification as well as to present an award for energy stewardship.
Energy Education presents the energy stewardship award to programs that perform well in energy conservation.
"It shows continuous growth and development of the energy conservation program, and the Greeneville City Schools have demonstrated that very well," Atkins said.
"They have really grown rapidly in terms of being role models in energy conservation," he added.
ENERGY COST SAVINGS
Melanie Williams heads the school system's energy management program.
"It was started as a means of conserving resources -- energy resources as well as financial," Williams said.
She helps communicate the importance of reducing energy consumption. In that process, she compiles energy consumption data from weekly audits and brainstorms innovative ways to manage the schools' energy use.
Reductions in equipment run-times and changes in energy-use behavior have resulted in significant energy cost savings.
Williams said the most cost-effective reduction is the result of doing a better job of managing heating and cooling.
With a remote access control, the schools can set heating and cooling to turn off when the building or rooms are not in use.
"Managing temperature has been a real cost-saver," Williams said.
ENERGY COST SAVINGS
There has been a 21 percent decrease in energy costs during the 23 months since the program started. She said the school system has avoided $391,976 in energy costs.
However, this is a, gross figure based on kilowatt reduction that does not account for the costs of the energy management program.
These program costs include the school system's yearly responsibility of $97,200 to Energy Education for the four years of the partnership contract. Energy software licenses needed for the program cost approximately $2,000, according to operations supervisor, Phillip Graham.
Also, a yearly stipend for Williams' position and travel expenses to the specific schools detract from the actual cost savings.
Graham clarified that the energy cost savings figure does not mean the school system has access to an extra almost $400,000.
Energy cost avoidance can increase in a year as utility costs increase while no actual energy reduction occurs.
Graham said it is important to keep the projected savings in the context of the actual savings.
ACCESS AFTER 4 YEARS
The association with Energy Education provides the school system with access to experts and specialists in the energy conservation field that extend beyond the four-year contract.
"It does work," said Graham. "I see the bills and how there is reduction. It just takes folks buying into application of the program."
Graham said that when the school system was considering the partnership, he called numerous other schools that have partnered with Energy Education. Each reported savings.
Graham said that even when all appliances are in the Off position, the average classroom can pull anywhere from 13 to 50 watts of power, which is called "phantom energy."
"So when you multiply that by a vast number of classrooms, it adds up very quickly," Graham said.
According to Williams, the school now goes into "complete shutdown" during extended breaks, such as the Christmas break. Teachers turn off all equipment and unplug the equipment as well.
She said that it is a group effort which involves everyone at the school's being aware of turning off lights when they are not in use, and following other ways of reducing waste.
"The whole purpose is to avoid waste," Williams said.
ENVIRONMENTALLY-FRIENDLY AND SUSTAINABLE
Williams said that reducing energy consumption benefits more than just the schools' budget. It is also environmentally-friendly and sustainable.
The energy reduction is equivalent to not driving 410 passenger cars for an entire year, Williams said. She also said the numbers indicate a reduction in greenhouse gasses by 2,282 metric tons of CO2.
Williams said that Energy Education guarantees energy cost savings by implementing its energy management program. The Greeneville City Schools system has exceeded the guaranteed savings.
The company projects a $2.985 million energy cost savings by Sept. 2020, and Atkins said that if the school maintains its trend of exceeding expectations, that number could be significantly larger.