The board of directors and officers of the Mississippi Biomass & Renewable Energy Council (MBREC) selected Rusty Ponder, Energy Management Coordinator for the Rankin County School District, to receive the Third Annual Sustainable Energy Visionary Leader (VISER) Award in recognition of his efforts to save energy in Rankin County Schools and promote STEM education in Mississippi through the use of renewable energy.
The Rankin County School District is the third largest in the state, consisting of eight attendance zones with 28 Schools and more than 19,500 students. For the year 2015, the School District reported a cost avoidance savings of $439,722 due to the energy management policy and procedures it adopted. In 2010, Ponder initially secured the United States Department of Energy’ Energy Star certification for three schools in the district and by 2014 had grown that to 19 certified schools.
Rankin County School District also became the first school district in Mississippi to install a grid-connected solar panel array, which took place over five years ago and is now also used as a teaching tool, a way to raise awareness of renewable energy options, and for financial savings on electric bills.
Ponder earned a Bachelor of Science degree in business from Mississippi State University, holds a Mississippi Real Estate license, and has completed the Certified Energy Manager certification and Certified Lighting Efficiency Professional programs.