Client News Texas

MISD engages with energy conservation company, looks to save $11M

Author: Meredith Moriak

By entering into a five-year contract with Cenergistic energy conservation company, Midland ISD trustees hope to redirect more than $11 million of would-be energy costs to other areas of the district’s budget during the next 10 years.

Trustees unanimously voted Tuesday during the regular board meeting to enter into a five-year contract with the Dallas-based energy conservation company.

Working with Cenergistic is expected to save the district $825,560 in net savings during the program’s first year and a 10-year net return of $11.58 million, according to projections by the company, which has saved a combined $3 billion for more than 1,250 clients during the past 26 years.

“The biggest expense I have right now for (maintenance and operations) is personnel, and the second one is utilities,” said MISD Superintendent Ryder Warren. “Whatever we can find to save us money, we’re going to go after. This is the company that showed us the most history of being successful.”

Cenergistic energy management programs are budget-neutral — implemented without capital outlay from the school districts — and funded solely by the energy savings generated. This allows clients — school districts, higher education institutions, hospitals and large churches — to redirect saved energy dollars to other priorities, said the regional president, Gary Clark, who presented the program to trustees Tuesday.

“We’re paid a percentage of the savings, and it’s a win-win for you. We will only get paid if you save money,” Clark said, noting that none of their client ever has lost money implementing the program and all have seen savings exceed the investment.

Cenergistic will be paid 50 percent of monthly gross savings during the five-year contract period, according to meeting documents. If MISD’s savings do not cover the cost of the energy program, Cenergistic will refund the difference.

The Cenergistic program “trains client personnel to implement behavioral and organizational changes that substantially reduce energy consumption without buying new equipment,” according to a news release.

The program was a smart choice for the district because it’s a budget-neutral program and one that saves most participating school districts about 26 percent of their total utility costs, Warren said. MISD’s utility budget for the current fiscal year is $4.82 million.

“We’re looking to generate money not in our budget or uncover some that is in our budget and rededicate funds to staff wherever possible,” Warren said, noting this is just one of many cost-saving measures he will present trustees with during the coming months.

“I am looking for any and every way to save or rededicate money right now,” Warren said. “We’ve got to invest in people right now. Every bit of money we can take in will be rediverted to staffing, getting us to the levels we need for manageable classroom numbers and to handle the cost of living.”

To implement and monitor the district’s energy management, MISD and Cenergistic will hire two energy specialists that will administer the program locally.

They will be MISD employees, but paid by Cenergistic until the district realizes energy savings. At that point, they will be paid by MISD purely from the funds saved on energy costs, Clark said.

With Cenergistic rooted in the belief that it’s important to change the culture of energy consumption, Clark said it’s more important to hire a “people person” with a strong ethic who can learn to use the EnergyCAP equipment, than to hire someone with existing mechanical skills who doesn’t like engaging with others.

“We can train someone to be an equipment expert, but making a mechanical person a people-person is not easy,” Clark said, noting the district’s 36 buildings will be split evenly between the two energy specialists.

After the specialists are hired, Cenergistic’s team of engineers and energy management experts, who have more than 140 certifications and advanced degrees, will come to Midland to evaluate the systems and train the energy specialists, Clark said.

“We teach your staff best practices by bringing the expertise here and teaching two people how to do this full-time, every day, and really focus on the energy management,” Clark said. “Y’all do a really good job with maintenance and energy already, but we can take a really good program and make it great.”

While MISD actively manages energy consumption and has for years, James Riggen, executive director of construction and school plant services, said he looks forward to having two employees who are strictly dedicated as energy specialists.

“For the staff and personnel that we have, we are doing a good job, but we can always do better,” Riggen said, noting Jill Hallmark, the district’s energy manager, also works as the maintenance department’s operations supervisor.

“We wear a lot of hats, and energy management is not her sole duty,” Riggen said, noting only about 25 percent of her workload focuses directly on energy management, controlling and scheduling the district energy management systems, identifying proper products for purchase and applying for grants and rebates from energy companies.

MISD’s buildings are controlled by energy management systems, and Riggen said he is thankful energy specialists will be able to “fine tune and tweak those plans … looking and identifying those areas that may not be controlled properly, ultimately maximizing the energy usage.”

“If Cenergistic can find dollars somewhere that we do not have the time or the personnel to find, we’d like to find them,” Riggen said. “It only makes good sense.”

Contracting with Cenergistic for five years will allow MISD staff to gain the necessary training and understanding of the district energy systems, something that will be beneficial long after the five year-contract expires, Riggen said.

“There’s a tremendous amount of training that comes with contracting for this program,” Riggen said. “We will be training people on the necessary skills to change the culture of saving energy in the district.”

Abilene ISD saved 30 percent on its utilities bill during the first seven months of the program and $863,000 total during the first performance year, said Cenergistic public relations director Jan Noel-Smith.

Ector County ISD contracted with Cenergistic in April and has spent the school year training energy specialists and setting district baselines, said district spokesman Mike Adkins.

“Our two energy specialists began training and evaluating buildings during the summer and did a ton of training and data work to set baselines for the district based on several years of energy bills,” Adkins said. “They’re also doing a good job engaging with campus staff members, sending out reminders to shut everything down during long weekends.”

Click here to read entire article on Midland Reporter-Telegram.