With a $12 million utility bill, KU efforts to conserve energy starting to pay off
At home, you might swap out a few lightbulbs for energy efficient ones and save a few cents a year on your electric bill.
At the University of Kansas that’s happening on a much larger scale: Over the past year and a half KU has replaced more than 4,500 lights with LED lamps, leading to an estimated annual savings of $61,720.
KU reduced energy use enough over the past year to meet — and exceed — its overall energy consumption goal, according to the university’s most recent campuswide energy report.
The figures on light bulbs are among results tallied in the report, which was completed over the summer and announced this fall.
KU spends more than $12 million annually on utility costs including electricity, natural gas, water, waste removal and other services, according to the university’s energy conservation policy. The policy says that consumption results in the release of more than 238,000 metric tons of carbon equivalents each year.
The policy, first adopted in 2009, states that the university’s goal was to reduce total energy consumption to 100 kBTUs per square foot per year, using square feet so energy measurements can remain consistent as campus grows and buildings are added or changed.
Last year KU beat that goal. Consumption was 98 kBTUs per square foot in fiscal year 2016, down from 106 kBTUs per square foot in fiscal year 2015, according to an announcement from KU’s Center for Sustainability and the KU Energy Office.
“We are excited to reach our goal, but the work doesn’t stop there,” KU energy manager George Werth said in the announcement. “There are still energy conservation measures we can implement to continue to reduce energy intensity further.”
According to the KU Energy Office’s fiscal year 2016 report, the year’s energy conservation measures included:
• Communicating with departments to optimize the scheduling plan for shutting down heating and cooling for more hours at a time when buildings are not in use.
• Tracking monthly energy use of buildings, flagging the ones where it’s repeatedly or largely increasing and then trying to figure out the problem and fix it.
• Investigating buildings with high energy use or “severe comfort problems,” and trying to fix those, too.
• In a pilot effort, deploying “Green Teams” in the following five buildings to identify energy saving opportunities and encourage behavioral changes: Ambler Student Recreation Center, Blake Hall, Dole Institute of Politics, Multidisciplinary Research Building and the Shankel Structural Biology Center.
The team in the Multidisciplinary Research Building, on West Campus, was particularly active.
Occupants of one room have put away their space heaters after a thermostat was fixed, and users of first- and third-floor bathrooms that were too cold are now more comfortable, too, after hot water coils were investigated and fixed, according to the energy report.
More dramatically, the building conducted a “Shut the Sash” campaign to curb climate-controlled air from, basically, going up in smoke through laboratory fume hoods being left wide open.
Fun fact, according to the energy report: Based on 29 fume hoods, the campaign prevented more than 322 million cubic feet of air from being air conditioned and exhausted to the outdoors. That’s enough air to fill Allen Fieldhouse more than 43 times.
“We are excited to combine technical and behavior efforts to reduce energy use even more at KU,” Jeff Severin, Center for Sustainability director, said in KU’s announcement. “We have seen as much as a 10 to 20 percent reduction in electricity with these practices combined in the past.”
The KU energy conservation policy’s stated goal is to put measures in place to “realistically and comprehensively reduce energy consumption, and improve energy efficiency on campus consistent with the needs for a safe, secure, inviting campus community.” It calls for “an aggressive and progressive approach.”