The district was recently honored for its commitment to energy-saving practices by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. The district was named an Energy Star 20 Percent Leader and an Energy Star Top Performer for significantly reducing its energy use during the past school year.
“This is a great honor,” said OUESD Energy Education Specialist Robert Gregory. “Our program is relatively new, so to be recognized for our dedication to energy efficiency is even more encouraging to keep doing what we’re doing and go for the next step.”
The Energy Star Top Performer award specifically recognizes the district for its leadership in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, while the 20 Percent Leader title awards the district for reducing its energy consumption by 20 percent or more. The district’s energy-conservation program, which began in May of 2011, cut the district’s energy bill by 24 percent in 13 months for a total savings of $194,000. Approximately 942,600 kilowatts of energy, 22,160 therms of natural gas and 45 gallons of propane were saved.
Gregory, who is also the district’s heating and air conditioning technician, had been looking for ways to save energy within the district before the energy-saving program was initiated, so when he was given the challenge of implementing a district-wide conservation program, he jumped at the opportunity.
“Saving energy is about changing your own habits, and that can take some time,” Gregory said. “The first thing I wanted the administrators and staff to do was to make sure to turn off the lights when no one is in a room and to turn off or unplug any unnecessary electronics. Just these little steps can lead to big savings.”
The main goal of the energy program is to maintain comfort and save money while eliminating waste, creating a climate of conservation in the process. Gregory instructed staff to “kill the vampires.” When you turn off the light at the end of the day, if there are any lights glowing back at you, ask yourself if you need to leave that device plugged in or left on overnight when no one is there to use it. He encouraged teachers to unplug TVs, projectors and even pencil sharpeners to save an extra kilowatt here and there. His motto: “Use it if you need it. Turn it off if you don’t.”
Another adjustment Gregory suggested was tweaking the heating and air conditioning units so they were operational only during school hours.
Gregory said many teachers began to use his energy-saving tips at home and noticed a significant change in their power bills. His hope is that the teachers will pass on these energy-saving tips to the students, who will share the information with their families.
OUESD Superintendent Rick Rogers is pleased with the progress of the program and its recent achievements. “This is a wonderful program that could not have achieved success without the cooperation from all of our staff along with the leadership that Robert has provided,” said Rogers. “In these tough economic times this is a win-win. This program has allowed us to be good stewards of both the taxpayers’ dollars and the environment.”
The district also received the Award for Energy Stewardship from Energy Education, which recognizes organizations for significantly reducing carbon emissions and conserving natural resources. According the Gregory, the amount of energy saved by the district is equivalent to removing 73 cars from the road for an entire year.
The Stewardship plaque will hang in the district office, while framed copies of the Energy Star awards will be posted in the main office of the district’s five elementary and two middle schools.
For the new school year, Gregory said he’d like to examine water efficiency in relation to campus landscaping and analyze outdoor lighting at each campus to see if there is a way to save energy during off hours.