AROUND MISSISSIPPI — The state’s public universities have saved $70 million over the past eight years through efforts to reduce energy consumption and increase energy efficiency, according to a report made recently to the Board of Trustees of the Institutions of Higher Learning.
“Many hands were involved in creating these cost savings and they are to be commended for their hard work,” said Trustee Ed Blakeslee, a member of the system-wide Energy Council. “This demonstrates that our universities are focused on saving money whenever and wherever possible. Keeping operational costs down directs more resources to teaching and learning and student support.”
The Energy Council meets quarterly and is comprised of university representatives, system-office personnel and a representative from the Board of Trustees.
In addition to campus initiatives, which included upgrades to equipment and lighting as well as outreach efforts to educate students and faculty on how they can assist in energy efficiency efforts, staff members from each campus track and report usage. Information on gas and electric usage and cost is tracked monthly, along with information on square footage. This data is updated quarterly and becomes part of a database that can be used to compare usage over time. Each year, the Energy Council reports the progress made to the Board of Trustees.
“The take-away from this report is that energy efficiency efforts pay for themselves,” said J.D. Hardy, associate director, engineering services, Mississippi State University and chair of the Energy Council. “It requires a focused effort and commitment from the universities, system and campus leadership and the Board of Trustees, but the end result makes these efforts worthwhile. These changes create campuses that are safer, more comfortable and less expensive to operate.”
The reports are available online at www.mississippi.edu/facilities/ and are presented in a user-friendly dashboard format.
In 2010, the task force set a goal of reducing energy consumption by 30 percent by 2020. In fiscal year 2014, despite a 20 percent increase in square footage and an exceptionally cold winter, the system registered a 21 percent reduction in energy consumption.
“Our energy efficiency efforts allow us to weather spikes in usage, such as during a harsh winter or brutal summer,” said Hardy. “We must continue investing in efficiency efforts to realize sustained savings.”
On the campus level, efforts include changes that may be barely noticeable to those on campus, but can make a tremendous difference in the amount of energy consumed. These changes include:
- Installing LED street lighting
- Upgrading high-voltage infrastructure
- Installing lighting with sensors
- Installing a multi-site irrigation control systems
- Upgrades to central chiller plants
- HVAC Controls Upgrades
- Installing new HVAC controls
- Converting boiler systems to high efficiency models
- Integrating the campus control systems
- Installing thermal storage
- Scheduling HVAC to reflect building occupancy
The universities have also reached out to the campus community to educate students and staff members about going green. Some of these efforts include:
- Holding an Earth Day Celebration
- Planting a sustainable garden
- Energy internships
- Energy Challenge between dormitories
- Recycling Events
System-wide, the IHL Energy Council helps evaluate energy consumption and compare energy costs versus energy consumption. The Board of Trustees passed a Sustainability Policy that requires no less than 25 percent of the expected annual recurring savings from completed energy efficiency projects to be set aside to finance future energy efficiency efforts, thus ensuring that the necessary investment in continued improvement is made.