In effect, that’s what the Richmond County Board of Education did with a partnership with Texas-based Energy Education Inc.
A little more than four years ago, the local schools contracted with Energy Education to trim energy costs. Energy Education didn’t offer to do it for free, but it did guarantee that the school system would save money.
The first year it saved about $239,000. The company had guaranteed a savings of at least $192,000.
The next year, the schools saved $365,000 and the third year, savings peaked at $435,000.
For the energy services, the schools paid $192,000 in the first year and approximately $180,000 in the subsequent three years.
How did Energy Education do it?
There wasn’t one magic bullet that turned energy use around. Energy Education said it was hundreds of bullets. The company says anybody can go onto the Internet and find a few energy saving tips. It claims to offer hundreds of them, and a big one is changing behavior. Remember when you were a kid and hearing “when you leave the room, turn the light off.”
That wasn’t the full extent of the program. The contractor reworked payment schedules with Progress Energy and spearheaded a program to get more energy efficient light bulbs in the system’s facilities.
At one of their clients in Oklahoma, an energy cop patrolled the school. He stalked the hallways late at night on the look-out for anything that may be using power. He left notes for teachers and employees to remind them to turn off computers and printers. He dropped off thank you cards when people remembered to unplug devices.
It seems strange that you’d have to pay somebody to tell adults something that should be so basic, but you can’t fault the results. The county schools say they’ve saved $1.8 million between April 2004 and February of this year. Over the four years, the school system has paid $732,000 for the consulting services.
Energy Education’s Blaine Duggan told the school board the $1.8 million it avoided paying for energy amounted to nearly a quarter of the energy the schools would have used without the firm’s services.
“Basically you have been good stewards, not only of the environment, but maybe more importantly, of your money,” he said.
From here on out, the heavy lifting is over for Energy Education. Now in its fifth year, the cost of the program will be $42,000 to pay the salary of an energy specialist and to operate educational programs. Will Richmond County Schools continue to see the savings they’ve seen in the past? We clearly hope so. And board members point out the program teaches a good lesson to students as well.
“It looks to me like this is a good thing, and our students should be involved in it and benefit from it,” said Chairman Bruce Stanback.