Turning lights off in rooms that are unoccupied and limiting air conditioning when residents are not at home are simple ways that many people save on energy bills. Last school year, the Batesville School District, with the help of Cenergistic, an energy-conservation company, saved more than $150,000 by implementing small behavioral changes throughout the district.
Because of the district’s commitment and accomplishment, Cenergistic will present the school board with an Energy Stewardship award at an upcoming school board meeting.
“We like to hand out awards to show the community that this district is being a good steward of the district’s money and environmental assets,” said Jan Noel-Smith, spokeswoman for Cenergistic. “It says a lot for a school district to take this step.”
The district entered an agreement with Cenergistic in December 2012 with a vote by the school board, and the company’s plans were implemented in August 2013.
Stacy Russell, the Batesville School District’s energy specialist, said that in the first nine months of the program, the district prevented more than 700 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
“That’s a big thing right now,” he said. “That is equivalent to taking off the road 147 cars or 18,000 pine trees being allowed to grow for 10 years.”
Russell is also a chemistry and physics teacher at Batesville High School, but he said he believed taking on the responsibilities of energy specialist would be a good way to help the district. He performs 10 to 15 audits of facilities every week, checking to make sure various systems are working properly, reporting to administrators and working with teachers who have questions about the program.
When it comes to saving money, Russell said, most of the changes were simple behavioral modifications that added up to savings over the school year.
“We set guidelines, and we ask teachers and staff to work within those guidelines with various temperatures they can set the thermostats and that sort of thing,” he said. “Of course, as with everything else, change is hard for a lot of people, but we’ve had a lot of buy-in and a lot of support from the faculty and staff.”
Noel-Smith said the district-specific programs are tailored by Cenergistic engineers who visit the company’s clients and figure out the best way to utilize their existing equipment.
“We train our clients to optimize the equipment they have,” she said. “We have them look at absolutely everything that uses energy in the district. We’re looking to be sure that each one of those are running as they’re designed to run.”
The Cenergistic engineers have seen many systems of various ages, Noel-Smith said, giving them an extensive knowledge of how each individual system should run.
Russell said it has been helpful to have Cenergistic’s recommendations to show new equipment is not necessary to save energy.
“We’re just making sure the existing equipment we have is maintained,” he said.
“We haven’t had to spend money on new light bulbs or anything like that.”
Noel-Smith said the programs designed by Cenergistic are “like being a kindergartner and seeing your teacher in the grocery store for the first time — it’s so obvious, but you don’t think about it until you see it.”
“The biggest part of the savings is the proper running of the heating and air, proper setup of cooking areas and how landscape and irrigation are handled,” Noel-Smith said.
Both Noel-Smith and Russell said comfort is still the district’s top priority, but they are able to keep students and faculty comfortable while making changes to save energy.
“We like to be student-centered, and everything needs to be geared toward those students,” Russell said. “We hope we can provide them with a good environment for learning, and also, we can save money that can be turned around and put back into classrooms.”
As time goes on, Russell said, the district will continue to refine the program so that meeting the energy-saving guidelines becomes second nature to the faculty and staff.
Staff writer Angela Spencer can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or firstname.lastname@example.org.