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Green energy saving SAD17 hundreds of thousands
OXFORD HILLS — A green energy initiative at SAD 17 has saved the district almost a million dollars in energy costs over three years, say school officials.
"It has definitely had a very positive impact on our budget, and also a very positive impact on the environment," said SAD 17 Curriculum Director Kathryn Elkins.
Three years into a 10-year contract with Siemens, a global building technology company, the program has been more successful than was originally guaranteed.
The energy savings have been partially offset by payments to the energy solutions program at Siemens.
Elkins recently presented a three-year summary to the Board of Education, during which she reported the good news.
"Over the course of the three years Siemens has guaranteed a savings of $639,729," she said. "The district has actually saved $982,479, which is $342,750 more than they guaranteed."
Siemens puts customers through a process that includes an energy audit, an energy conservation plan, and delivery and installation of new equipment. The company guarantees a certain amount of savings, and is paid an amount that is less than the savings guaranteed.
SAD 17 is paying Siemens approximately $200,000 per year for the 10-year period.
"Remember, there is a payment," said Elkins. "We are paying for this ... This year, the savings exceeded the payment by $66,000, and over the three years, the savings have exceeded the payments by $334,000.
Once the contract is up, the district will see all of the benefits, and none of the costs.
"Once the payment's gone, it's all money in the pocket," said Elkins. "The equipment that's been installed has a much longer life than 10 years."
Last year was the best year for the district in terms of savings, reported Elkins.
"Last year, they exceeded their savings by a significant amount, where it was just supposed to be a little bit beyond $200,000, and we were off $375,000, so by a huge amount they exceeded the guarantee last year."
The performance over expectations this year was more modest.
"This year it's a little bit different," said Elkins. "They did meet the guarantee; they did exceed the guarantee; but the difference is just over $50,000."
Even though this year came relatively close to the minimum amount guaranteed, Elkins says there's no need to be concerned about the deal costing the district money.
"If they don't achieve the savings that they guarantee to us, they would actually have to write us a check, so this is pretty important to them that they've got it right," she said.
The district entered into the contract in 2007. The last year measured did not yet take into account the school's new high-tech boiler, which will further reduce the high school's energy needs.
In 2007, the district saved $327,000. In 2008, it saved $372,000. This past year, it saved $282,000.
"You might question why we didn't exceed the savings quite as much as we did in the previous years," said Elkins.
The answer, she said, has to do with energy costs.
When the school entered into the contract, it based its projected savings on the electricity and fuel oil costs of the day.
"We agreed that we would start with electricity costs based on what we were paying at that time, which was almost 11 cents per kilowatt hour. Fuel oil, the cost per gallon was $1.79."
In the second year of the contract, fuel costs spiked to $3.92 per gallon, which meant that every gallon of oil saved was worth much more than had been previously projected "because we were paying a whole lot more for oil than what the original contract calculated savings on," said Elkins..
In the third year of the contract, fuel oil costs went down to $2.89, which shrank the dollar value of the energy savings.
In 2007, the district was paying $491,000 for electricity and $352,000 for heating oil.
This year, the district's electric bill was $407,000, and the heating oil bill was $365,000.
That doesn't sound like a dramatic difference, but if the school had not entered into the contract, the electric bill would have been a hefty $619,801, while the heating bill would have come to $411,000, said Elkins.
The reduction in energy consumption has also paid a big dividend to the environment, with a savings of 1,283,000 pounds of carbon dioxide, 1,811 pounds of nitrogen oxide, and 3,049 of sulfur dioxide that is not going into the atmosphere.
"We're saving 1,271,672 kilowatts each year, and over 51,000 gallons of oil per year," said Elkins.
Put another way, it is as if the school saved five acres of forest, eliminated four railcars worth of coal burned, took 107 cars off the road, and prevented the burning of 1,354 barrels of oil.
"All good stuff," said Elkins.
Board member Curtis Cole had one question for Elkins.
"Do they have an automobile division to help us with our buses?" he joked.