KU hopes energy audit will result in significant savings

Kansas University has mostly completed the work associated with a $25 million energy savings audit that began in 2009 and is now waiting to see how much energy the school will save as a result of the ventilation upgrades to Malott and Haworth halls and lighting upgrades made across campus.

In 2009, KU entered into a $25 million contract with Energy Solutions Professionals, of Overland Park, to conduct the audit and make initial upgrades that created energy-efficient savings. In addition to the ventilation work and lighting fixture upgrades in more than 40 campus buildings, some work was done to conserve water, too, said Doug Riat, director of facilities operations and planning at KU.

As part of the contract, the company is guaranteeing that KU will realize at least $2 million in energy savings from the audit. Riat said the university and ESP will soon discuss when to start tabulating the energy savings based on when the work is completely done.

The company is paid out of the initial $25 million cost and does not receive a portion of the savings, Riat said. The largest cost was for the improvements in Malott and Haworth, he said.

He said that while the improvements would be cheaper if KU did them without ESP’s assistance, the bonds used to pay for the improvements are only possible because of the company’s guarantee of a revenue source to pay them back.

“You’re paying an increased cost for a reduced risk,” Riat said.

Still, Riat said KU may incur extra expenses to maintain a much more sophisticated ventilation system and to have staffers with the technical expertise necessary to fix any issues that may arise.

Those expenses typically aren’t calculated into the energy savings that KU realizes from the improvements, he said.

The company is also assisting KU employees to make behavioral changes that will help save energy. The company is assisting KU’s Center for Sustainability in sponsoring an energy-saving contest among students, faculty and staff in three KU buildings that began Wednesday.

People working and studying in Bailey Hall, Green Hall and Summerfield Hall will be asked to sign a pledge to undertake several energy-conservation measures. Those include turning the lights out when they leave the office, unplugging items not in use, and replacing incandescent bulbs in desk and floor lamps with compact fluorescent bulbs.

Those who signed the pledge in each building will be eligible for prizes, and a barbecue lunch will be provided for those who signed the pledge in the building that saves the most energy.

“I think we would see 2 to 3 percent savings,” if all employees and students adopted the energy-saving measures, said Jeff Severin, director of KU’s sustainability center. “Maybe as much as 5.”

The behavioral measures are part of the contract with ESP.

The company conducts similar audits with businesses, too

“It’s a hot industry right now,” said Tim O’Kane, director of marketing for ESP. “We’ve seen growth every year for the past few years.”

KU undertook a similar project with Chevron Energy Solutions in 2001 that resulted in savings of about $900,000 per year.