Energy contracting program could save district on utility bills

It’s a complicated concept, but the results are simple enough.

It’s called performance-energy contracting, and if School District 51 opts in, it could save the district up to $7 million in utility costs over 15 years.

The Governor’s Energy Office, under directive from

Gov. Bill Ritter to improve energy efficiency at schools statewide, presented the energy-contracting concept to the District 51 Board of Education.

John Canfield, a consultant to the energy office, said the district would enter into a contract with a private “energy-service company” that would identify energy-saving measures in schools across the district.

The company would recommend a package of capital improvements that could be made in the district, which would be paid for with money earmarked for the utilities budget.

“The capital improvements are supported by energy and maintenance savings,” Canfield said. “It’s reallocating money used for utilities.”

Canfield said the company would guarantee a certain amount of money annually in energy savings, as per the contract, to pay for the efficiency improvements the company would make to facilities.

The district would not have to allocate any new money, Canfield said, because even if the actual savings fell short of the guaranteed amount, the company would cover the shortfall.

District 51 spends $2.5 million on electricity and $850,000 on natural gas for 2.8 million square feet of buildings annually.

Canfield said a preliminary analysis of energy improvements showed District 51 could “conservatively” save an average of 20 percent on electric and natural gas bills per year with a performance-energy contract.

That equates to $670,000, Canfield said.

Contract terms would be from 10 to 15 years, he said, with a 15-year contract saving $7 million for capital improvements.

Some of the improvements could be energy-efficient boilers or geothermal-exchange systems that heat buildings using natural heat from the ground, at schools with enough space to accommodate the system.

Melissa Callahan deVita, District 51’s executive director of support services, told the board of education the team looking into performance-energy contracting supported the district entering into a contract.

The board could be presented with contract options at its next business meeting, Dec. 16, she said.


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