School looks to cut energy bills

By Tony Parra

Portales public officials are implementing an energy conservation program in hopes of saving thousands of dollars each year on energy costs.
Portales school officials went into a four-year agreement with Energy Education, Inc. last week. Portales Schools Superintendent James Holloway said the school district does not have to pay any money up front and the company guarantees savings or the company will write the school district a check for the difference of the savings promised.
Holloway said the Portales school district spends approximately $450,000 a year on its utilities — natural gas, water, electricity and sewer. Energy Education officials projected an estimated $77,000 in savings after the first year. Of the projected savings, $51,000 will pay Energy Education Inc. fees, energy manager salary, software and seminar costs.
Portales school officials will continue to pay an average of $48,000 to Energy Education Inc. after each performance year in which they save money on energy costs. However, Energy Education Inc. officials project the savings for Portales schools to increase.
The total overall savings after the fourth year would be $103,000, which would put $63,872 back into the school’s budget, according to Holloway.
The amount of money going back to the school’s budget will skyrocket to $96,091 after the fifth year and continue to rise to $118,410 after the seventh year, according to the projections. A big part of the increase is due to the fact that Portales schools officials will no longer have to have to pay $30,000 to Energy Education Inc.
Jan Noel-Smith, directory of public relations for Energy Education, Inc. said the first step in implementing the conservation program is to hire an energy manager, she said, most likely from within Portales schools.
“Most of the times someone is hired within the district,” Noel-Smith said. “It has to be someone who is people-oriented, motivated and able to motivate other people.”
Noel-Smith said once the school district makes their choice, Energy Education Inc. experts will train the energy manager on the technical aspects of the program, and the position would likely be parttime.
Holloway said there is an opening for the energy manager position, but has not received any applications. Holloway said the goal is to have an energy manager in place by July so the person can begin training with Energy Education Inc. experts.
Holloway said Energy Education Inc. will pay for the energy manager during the first year then Portales schools’ officials will repay Energy Education Inc. with part of the energy costs’ savings.
Holloway said he received a call from a friend who said the program worked for the school he was working at. Holloway and Murphy Quick, Portales schools finance director received a lists of school officials who have used the program. They recognized some names and began calling around.
“We made some calls and received glowing reviews,” Holloway said. “It’s no obligation. We’re not putting any money up front.”
Noel-Smith said the way the program works is by tightening up on wasting energy. It can be as simple as shutting off a light when not needed or turning off cooling or heating appliances.
Noel-Smith said the company needs to train the energy manager throughout the seasons, because of the changes in utilities reliance. Experts in water, natural gas and electricity use will train the energy manager, according to Noel-Smith.
Noel-Smith said Silver City Consolidated Schools and Cobre Schools’ officials are currently using the conservation program. She said Silver City schools officials have had the program in place for 35 months and have saved approximately $500,000, a 28 percent decrease in energy costs.
She said in some instances schools have not received savings over the cost which goes to the program after the first year, but they were able to generate savings which go back to the school’s budget after the second and third years.