OKC Public Schools Commits to Energy Efficiency
One of the largest energy consumers in Oklahoma are our schools, with thousands of buildings across the state. One of the largest school districts in the state seems they are finally getting serious about saving energy. All the budget problems that have befallen our public schools are not their fault - they're just playing the hand they've been dealt. One part of the budget that has always been certain is operating expenses, it just costs a certain amount to open the doors to the kids.
Heating, cooling, lighting and hot water are the largest energy uses for schools. Many of the independent school districts across the state have decided to invest in lowering those operating expenses, something the private sector has been doing for quite some time now. By leveraging an instrument called a lease-purchase, schools can gain access to large amounts of capital to invest in energy-saving measures. Because of the low risk on these investments (and matching rebates available from utilities), the capital has been readily availble for almost any school interested. Many times, the cost of the monthly payment on the loan is LESS than the energy savings gained each month (meaning a cash positive investment). This has been an easy sell for many school boards, who have invested in LED lighting and HVAC upgrades, but the largest school districts have been so quick to sign up. Slowly but surely, though, they have found ways to free up those valuable dollars from the operating budget - allowing them to keep more teachers and keep more programs for the children.
The latest news comes from the Oklahoma City Public School's webpage, where it states they have received Energy Star Certifications for 42 separate buildings in their school district. Energy Star Certification is for schools in the top 25% for energy efficiency, nationwide (when compared to their baseline and other factors). More research is required to fully determine how they acheived this distinction, because officials from OKCPS did not respond to my request for their comments. One way that is clear is their contract with Cenergistic. Cenergistic is out-of-state consulting company which helps their clients save energy through expertise, technology, analytics, and their network of energy specialists.
What I love most about this story is to see another large institution taking a stand for energy efficiency. They had to invest real money and time into this project, and they're obviously reaping the benefits of that now. I think it is so important to see high profile success stories for projects like this. Hopefully this can inspire other schools, government institutions and private businesses to take the leap of faith with renewable energy, energy efficiency and other complimentary technologies. It also says something to our children to see the school walking the walk on energy. Hopefully we can see more schools pairing together classroom lessons with real-life energy upgrades. This, to me, fulfills one of the major roles of large institutions in our society - to be community leaders.
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