When Edward Froehner offered to help the Lawrence school district cut utility bills by more than $3 million, he got the school board's attention.
But Froehner got the board's vote when he guaranteed utility costs would fall at least an amount equal to the district's investment in his company's energy-management program. If not, Energy Education of Wichita Falls, Texas, will write a check to the district for the difference.
"It's all based on positives," said Froehner, the California division president of Energy Education.
Under a contract yet to be completed, the district would budget $184,200 in the first year for consulting fees, utility-tracking software and hiring of an energy education manager. Froehner guaranteed to find energy savings of at least $184,200 but projected actual savings to the district of about $241,000.
During its seven-year program, he said, the district could expect to save $3.12 million on an investment of $919,000.
Bruce Plenk, a Lawrence attorney and member of the city's Recycling and Resource Conservation Advisory Board, said a commitment by the school board to conserve energy was "a giant step."
"We wish you had done this 10 years ago," Plenk said.
Energy Education's approach doesn't involve mechanical overhauls. Instead, it relies on an educational awareness program.
It's a "people-oriented" effort that makes use of a district-employed energy manager -- possibly a schoolteacher -- who can communicate to students and employees that each can be an energy saver, Froehner said.
Training would begin with maintenance and food-service staff before proceeding to other occupations and to students, he said.
Froehner said the program wouldn't require people to sacrifice comfort in the heating or cooling of schools during instructional periods.
The company's program had been used in more than 400 U.S. school districts. Energy Education also has worked with school districts in Topeka, Leavenworth, Kansas City, Derby, Wichita, Salina and Garden City.
In nearly nine years, the firm reports, the Wichita district avoided $19 million in utility costs.