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USM reports $10M-plus in savings from energy-efficiency efforts

southern missHATTIESBURG — The University of Southern Mississippi has undertaken significant changes in energy consumption and efficiency that have resulted in a savings of more than $10 million since 2009, according to USM.

Facilities across the Hattiesburg campus — including those designated for academics, athletics, residence life and dining — continue to be examined to determine amounts of energy used, cost, and the energy-use infrastructure in each building. The University’s Physical Plant reviews utility data, targets “hot” spots (high-energy consumption areas of campus) and makes adjustments that have minimal impact on building occupants and materials.

The Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL) has mandated that all universities reduce energy consumption by 30 percent by the end of fiscal year 2015. Southern Miss currently operates at a 29.5 percent reduction. Some important energy-saving efforts undertaken by the University include:

• Equipment and mechanical changes in plants that include the installation of energy-efficient technological features

• Energy-efficient lighting upgrades

• Implementation of night, weekend and holiday setbacks on heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC)

• Education and increased communication with faculty, staff and students on how they can help reduce consumption

“In addition to our HVAC holiday setbacks, efforts such as powering down computers and turning off lights go a long way to reduce our utility consumption,” said Dr. Chris Crenshaw, associate vice president for facilities planning and management. “When the university spends less on utilities, these energy savings truly impact everyone. The more participation we receive, the more impactful these savings will be to our campus community.”

In 2009 Southern Miss established an Energy Management Team, consisting of the superintendent of HVAC, an energy management control specialist, an electrical engineer and an energy consultant. This group developed an Energy Management Program that analyzes, reviews and recommends ways to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gases.

The team monitors energy usage daily and meets monthly to review energy issues. Also, a quarterly brainstorming session is held to review new technologies.

Mississippi public universities have saved $70 million over the past eight years through efforts to reduce energy consumption and increase energy efficiency, a report made recently to the Board of Trustees revealed. These savings are the result of a system-wide effort to improve facilities and equipment, track usage and performance, and leverage in-house expertise and partnerships to share best practices.

“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.”

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