SEARK nearer to light upgrade

The Southeast Arkansas College campus in Pine Bluff is shown in this undated photo. (Pine Bluff Commercial/I.C. Murrell)

Southeast Arkansas College will close a performance energy contract with Bernhard Energy within 90 days to improve lighting across campus, among other things.

The board agreed last week on a motion to close the contract within 90 days, pending final approval of contract documents and state energy office approval.

"SEARK's current lighting, HVAC, and security infrastructure are aging and, in many cases, reaching a point in their lifespan where a significant investment will be required," school President Steven Bloomberg said. "SEARK has been working with the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality on a program which is intended to help public entities replace obsolete or non-functional infrastructure without a significant capital outlay."

The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality – Arkansas Energy Office (AEO) has developed the Arkansas Energy Performance Contracting (AEPC) program to meet the intent of the Guaranteed Energy Cost Savings Act of 2013, school officials say. The objective of the program is to provide a method for owners in Arkansas to utilize energy performance contracting (EPC) as an effective and user-friendly process to improve energy and operational efficiency while reducing costs and addressing deferred maintenance concerns without the need for upfront capital.

While the program was initially developed for state agencies and institutions of higher education, recent legislation has expanded the AEPC program across the public sector, according to school officials.

"Energy Performance Contracting (EPC) Defined Energy performance contracting is a service offered by Energy Service Companies (ESCOs) as a practical way for owners to finance facility improvement projects with guaranteed energy and utility savings," Bloomberg said. "By leveraging these dollars, as well as reduced maintenance costs, capital avoidance savings, and potential incentives, EPC projects are funded on a debt-neutral basis. EPC has achieved widespread acceptance across all levels of government in recent decades, as the opportunities it presents offer a means to address longstanding capital improvement, deferred maintenance, staff resource, and facility efficiency issues. EPC is a turnkey service, comparable to design-build construction with an accompanying annual savings guarantee sufficient to finance the full cost of the energy conservation measures (ECMs) installed through the project. In Arkansas, EPC projects are developed and executed by prequalified ESCOs, with the entire process overseen and administered by the AEO."

• Bloomberg clarified the EPC will provide the following upgrades:

• retrofitting all interior and exterior lights with LED;

• installing a new, campus-wide video surveillance system with building access controls;

• installing new, campus-wide life safety systems (fire alarms);

• installing a new automated lighting control system;

• installing a new automated HVAC control system;

• replacing various boilers and chillers;

• installing new ultraviolet air sanitizing systems to protect against the spread of viruses, such as COVID-19.

Bloomberg identified the total cost as $6.2 million in upgrades/infrastructure improvements. SEARK is utilizing $1.7 million in one-time funds and will use the guaranteed energy savings to offset the remaining $4.4 million in debt, he said.