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Energy audits can result in big savings

Numerous municipalities and other entities in Mississippi are benefitting from energy audits. Audits involve prioritizing energy usage by cost effectiveness, determining problem areas in a facility and identifying energy-efficiency opportunities. In this time of economic recovery, every dollar counts.

Engineering firm Allen & Hoshall has performed many energy audits for entities that received stimulus funds for energy projects through the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA).

Jimmy Nelson, vice president at the firm’s Jackson office, said energy efficiency recommendations vary depending upon the facility. “It’s really random. It could be lighting, thermostats, motion sensors or HVAC,” he said.

The firm’s clients include the Mississippi Department of Public Safety, the Mississippi Air National Guard and Meridian Community College.

Allen & Hoshall is in the process of auditing Meridian Community College. “We are doing audit of the entire campus. It’s 26 separate buildings, 676,000 square feet.” An audit of this size takes approximately three months to complete.

The Mississippi Air National Guard, which occupies a total of 540,000 square feet, recently spent more than $200,000 to upgrade nine facilities with energy-efficient lighting. They are in the process of planning for a second, much larger project.

Lt. Col. Ed Evans said, “What we do is all in support of federal mandates. (The U.S. Air Force is) charged with trying to reduce our energy consumption by 30 percent. We’ve looked into areas where we can be more efficient. We typically don’t fund anything outside a 10-year payback.”

Nelson said most of his firm’s audits have resulted in decisions to implement efficiency measures, although “sometimes the payback periods are so long that it’s not worth it. Some are 40-year paybacks.”

Numerous cities, such as Kosciusko, Macon, Lambert, Noxapater, Sturgis, Hollandale, Senatobia, Prentiss, Morton, Artesia, Heidelberg, Marion and Sebastapol, as well as the counties like Webster, Attala, Jasper, Coahoma, Newton, Leake and Jefferson Davis have received stimulus funding for audits of public buildings like police stations, libraries, courthouses and fire stations.

Unfortunately, MDA says stimulus funds for energy programs have all been allocated, and no new programs are expected. Recently, some groups who had won American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds chose not to move forward with their projects, and a small amount of funds became available for prior grant recipients who had received less than $100,000. But MDA isn’t taking applications for any new projects, the agency said.

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