OPP Energy Conservation Saves $22,000

Over the course of the past three weeks, Phillips Academy has saved approximately $22,000 in energy bills after the implementation of a new conservation program called “Partners in Energy,” combined with the Office of Physical Plant’s (OPP) campus-wide energy conservation initiative. During the week of January 23, the Academy consumed over 1,000 fewer gallons of oil than it has on average for the past five years. OPP has been taking steps to conserve electricity and fuel in all academic, administrative, athletic, and campus support buildings, dorms, and faculty homes. Recent progress was made after they installed new energy controls in academic buildings and weather stripping on faculty homes was repaired or replaced. This year, the entire school’s indoor temperature was lowered from 70 to 68 degrees in an effort to save energy. In October, OPP also made the decision to delay the initial start-up of the heating system, which is expensive since it involves heating underground steam pipes that run from the Power Plant to buildings across campus. Associate Director of Utilities and Maintenance Carlos Montanez wrote, “I see energy conservation as learning tool, a necessary process in understanding how simple changes in habit can make a difference.” The Partners in Energy program, which was established last spring, is geared towards improvements to residential buildings, and therefore primarily involves fixing problematic heating systems in faculty homes. Their focus is on homes where the largest amount of energy is consumed, based on British Thermal Units per square foot. The program, whose costs are being split by Phillips Academy and utility company Bay State Gas, is expected to pay for itself in one to three years. Program administrators from Bay State Gas will assess buildings when deciding which to include in their plans. They have inspected twenty buildings thus far, and have already completed one building’s improvements. They expect to finish six more buildings within the next several weeks. The Partners in Energy program is in high demand because of soaring energy prices. However, since OPP and Bay State Gas joined the program early, more inspections and improvements are scheduled to be completed in the near future. In the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, fuel prices around the country increased by 35% this year. Phillips Academy’s utility bill, normally two million dollars, is expected to jump to as high as $2.7 million. This is nearly a one percent increase in the portion of the Academy’s approximately $100 million utilities budget. As the New England winter grows colder, the high demand for heat has further inflated the price of natural gas, PA’s primary heat source. The school also has the capability to burn low sulfur transportation diesel to produce the heat and energy it needs to operate. The most expensive buildings to operate on campus are those that require the most fresh air ventilation. Those buildings cannot re-circulate the already heated interior air such as the Gelb Science Center. Mr. Montanez wrote, “The total energy savings dollars realized to date in the campus wide energy conservation program has been dramatic but not surprising. It has been my experience here at PA that whenever the community as a whole is faced with a challenge we have always responded favorably.” Individual dorms are addressing heating issues as well. Upon hearing complaints of cold rooms in her dorm, Day Hall, Instructor in English Stephanie Curci discovered that the cold temperatures were the result of open windows and doors in a single room. The students were asked to close their door if they wanted to open their windows. Ms. Curci chose to investigate the problem before asking that more heat be used. She said, “It’s just common sense. I’m currently sitting under a blanket drinking hot tea; I’m not turning up the heat.” Ms. Curci also requested that OPP plastic-wrap windows in the dorm’s most drafty rooms. Though she originally wished to install storm windows, the Academy’s budget could not accommodate her request. Hopefully, as the energy conservation initiative continues, all buildings will become more efficient in their use of heat and electricity and the benefits of OPP’s efforts will become apparent campus-wide.