Rising Fuel Prices

As gas prices climb above $3 per gallon in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Phillips Academy is confronting high fuel prices with the cold New England winter approaching. The Academy spends around $2 million a year on utilities, including electricity, water, and heating costs for dorms and other buildings. As the school’s total budget is just under $100 million, utilities account for about 2 percent of the school’s expenditures. This year fuel costs have increased by 35 percent, causing a drastic rise in the school’s operating costs. Andover’s utility bill for 2005-2006 may be as high as $2.7 million. In an effort to lessen fuel consumption and save money, the Office of Physical Plant (OPP) has recently decided to postpone starting up campus heating systems as long as possible. In recent years, the heating system has been activated in late September or early October. Although the exact costs of starting the system cannot be determined, it is relatively expensive to heat up the underground steam lines that stretch across campus. The school’s power plant, located near Draper Cottage, uses natural gas and clean-burning fuel oil to heat buildings. As cold New England winter weather approaches, fuel costs will continue to rise as the demand for heating oil increases. “What we are doing is trying to avoid the expenditures that are not needed in the current weather,” said Director of Facilities Michael Williams In an announcement on PAnet and in The Gazette, Associate Director of Maintenance and Facilities Carlos Montanez encouraged students and faculty to conserve Academy heating resources. “Together our collective efforts will have a positive influence on reducing our energy consumption and unavoidable costs,” Mr. Montanez wrote. This conservation plan does not include the main campus buildings and faculty houses that are separated from the school’s central power plant. Faculty who live in houses that receive energy independently are also encouraged to join in the conservation effort. Students and faculty have mixed feelings about the new plan. “I understand that we have to do this to save money, but I don’t think they [OPP] are managing it too well. In the winter they are blasting the heat so much that we have to sit in the dorm in shorts and tee-shirt, so it probably makes no difference,” said Jean Pak ’07. Instructor in Mathematics and Johnson house counselor Nancy Lang is content with the new policy. “I am okay with it so far since the weather has been great. And I am sure there are ways to survive even when it gets cold later. Sleeping with an extra layer of blanket or with a sweatshirt on isn’t too bad,” said Ms. Lang. Mr. Williams also encouraged the students to avoid long showers and to close the windows in early evening to keep the heat from the sun inside. “This is not just about money, it’s also an environmental issue of conservation of natural resources. It’s very important for the student body to think about these issues, as excessive energy consumption is a growing concern in this world. And the more than we can do to be careful of how we use energy, the better we’ll be,” he said.