Special to the Register
Despite the addition of the New Science Building and the Center for the Performing Arts and the inevitable rate increases, overall utility costs have changed little at Eastern Kentucky University over the last two years.
Credit the university’s Energy Savings Performance Contract (ESPC) with Siemens Building Technologies.
Five years ago, Eastern contracted with Siemens for an extensive $27 million ESPC, the largest such contract in state history at the time, to promote long-term sustainability, reduce the University’s impact on the environment, and dramatically reduce utility costs. The contract allowed the University to address widespread deferred maintenance issues in campus facilities while leaving capital budgets intact. Facilities upgrades included energy-efficient lighting, water-conserving technologies, and HVAC retrofits and efficiency improvements, including greater building automation.
The ESPC was funded without additional taxpayer dollars, as costs associated with the improvements were financed over 12 years using the contractually guaranteed energy savings, based on current utility consumption projections. (If the expected cost reductions are not met, Siemens agreed to reimburse the University for any shortfall.)
This past fiscal year alone (July 2012-June 2013), EKU realized approximately $3.2 million in utility cost and operational savings at baseline rates (the rates at the time the contract was signed). That figure jumps to $4.2 million at current rates. In either case, the University is running “ahead of the curve” relative to the guaranteed savings, according to Barry Poynter, vice president for finance and administration.
“This was a great way to do all these improvements in short order and see they would be paid for in 12 years,” Poynter said. “Partnering with Siemens allowed us to expedite the work and not have to dedicate our own manpower, which would have taken longer for us to begin realizing savings.”
EKU’s annual utility bill runs approximately $8 million, up just 4 percent from 2008-09 expenditures. In addition to the arts center and New Science Building, which came on line in 2011 and 2012, respectively, the University this year opened another large residence hall. The New Science Building is the largest energy user on campus.
The largest chunk of the $4.2 million in savings based on current utility rates came, not surprisingly, from electricity (approximately $1.7 million). Approximate savings from other utility categories this past fiscal year were: natural gas, $710,000; coal, $430,000; water, $220,000; and sewer, $900,000. Operational savings totaled $237,250.
Lighting was updated campus-wide with higher efficiency units. Occupancy sensors were added where appropriate, and vending misers were installed campus-wide.
Every flush valve, shower head and sink aerator on campus was replaced with energy-efficient models. Toilet tanks were individually tuned to the proper flush volume, and hands-free automated flush valves that adjust volume according to actual usage were installed in all public spaces.
Variable Air Volume units were replaced in buildings with the most issues for greater efficiency and improved temperature control. Significant improvements were made, as well, to the university’s 100-year-old coal-fired heat plant. Coal-fired boilers were refitted for increased burn efficiency. In addition, the university’s building management system was expanded campus-wide and, with it, building and equipment scheduling that conserves energy during unoccupied periods.
Eastern received more than $303,000 in energy efficiency rebates from Kentucky Utilities’ commercial rebate program, which is designed to offer qualified commercial customers cash incentives to replace aging, less efficient equipment and lighting. Lighting retrofits generated more than half of the rebate, the balance coming from switching to more efficient motors, motor controls and pumps.
Other ways in which the university conserves energy, reduces its environmental footprint and/or raises environmental awareness include:
• Two web-based Direct Digital Control building management systems that control 67 buildings on the Richmond campus and two regional campuses, allowing staff to monitor and troubleshoot HVAC systems real time from any location
• “Green” initiatives in Information Technology. In fact, EKU’s IT operation earned national recognition from University Business magazine in 2010 for its “green” innovations, including configuration of all desktop machines to go into power saver mode after a time of non-use and the move of individual servers to a virtual server environment, dramatically reducing power consumption.
• Holiday break setbacks
• A new power factor correction capacitor bank that results in savings of $12,000 a month
• The establishment of the Center for Renewable and Alternative Fuel Technologies (CRAFT) for developing a regional biofuels industry
• A “green” purchasing policy committed to the purchase and use of environmentally responsible products and services
• A ride-sharing program
• A bicycle rental program
• A comprehensive recycling program
• The addition of five hydration stations
• Guidance from the Eastern Committee for Responsible Environmental Stewardship
• Annual “Earth Days in the Cumberlands” observance.