Rocklin Unified looks into energy-saving program

By: Lauren Gibbs, The Placer Herald
-A +A
Rocklin Unified trustees are entertaining the idea of bringing in an outside company to help cut energy costs. It has the possibility of saving Rocklin Unified School District up to $500,000 in energy costs the first year, according to Larry Stark, assistant superintendent of facilities and operations for Rocklin Unified. Savings could amount to more than $50,000 each additional year, Stark said. The company, Energy Education, Inc., promises results – if the district’s costs run greater than their energy savings, the company will reimburse the district. If Rocklin Unified moves forward with an Energy Education contract, an energy specialist would be hired, who would be a full-time employee, most likely already employed with the district, according to Stark. In addition to the energy specialists’ salary, the district’s costs would also include the software fees, which amount to about $13,950 the first year and approximately $2,093 each year after, and travel expenses for the energy specialist to attend three conferences a year. Energy Education, Inc. would also get a percentage of the district’s savings – that amount has not been determined yet. However, if any of the district’s costs are lower that the savings from Energy Education, the company will reimburse the difference. That savings guarantee is what has Stark confident with the company. Energy Education has been successful at implementing energy savings at districts across the country, including local San Juan, Fresno and Manteca unified districts. According to a May 2010 Manteca Record article, the district saved more than $486,000 during the previous six months, cutting approximately $80,000 off its monthly $400,000 utility bills. Currently, Rocklin Unified’s energy costs reach approximately $2.5 million a year, Stark said. Despite efforts from teachers, students and other district staff, energy costs have remained about the same for the last few months. Rocklin Unified trustees requested a breakdown of energy costs by school site for September through November 2009 compared to those three months in 2010. What the results showed was an increase in energy costs by approximately $1,500. Some schools had significant energy cost savings. At Rocklin High School, for the three months in 2009, the school’s energy bill was at $176,479 and dropped down to $158,153 for those months in 2010. However, the results also showed school sites that increased usage. Rock Creek Elementary School jumped from $35,990 to $50,849 for September through November in 2009 versus 2010. The data showed that savings at each school site was inconsistent, Stark said. “We haven’t made a lot of progress,” Stark said. “This is the year we had many of the classrooms closed – it would just seem that there would be savings across the board and there is not.” With Energy Education’s software, factors such as rate increases, temperature changes and additions and reductions in square footage, that affect the district’s energy use can be analyzed and the cuts can be implemented. Discussion regarding a contract with Energy Education has been discussed by board members. Trustees talked about moving forward with a contract with Energy Education at the Jan. 19 school board meeting. “Our biggest challenge is that we don’t have the type of software to do the analysis,” Rocklin Unified School District Superintendent Kevin Brown said at the Jan. 19 board meeting. “We just don’t have the personnel or the means of sophistication within our district right now.” However, Trustee Wendy Lang said she had reservations. “I’m not confident with this data to say, ‘Let’s go forward,’” Lang said during the Jan. 19 meeting. Previously, teachers came to board members asking for the opportunity to cut energy costs in the classrooms. Lang said she would like to go back to staff to see if they feel as if they could make more drastic changes. “I just want to make sure we are giving staff every opportunity,” Lang said. An Energy Education representative is scheduled to attend Rocklin Unified’s board meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 2 to provide more information and answer questions.