In 1993, Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) hired its very first energy education specialist. No one knew then that energy management would become such a big deal at LCPS, or that documented energy savings would exceed $60 million in little more than two decades. This case study provides a look at an award-winning energy management program that has exhibited extraordinary success and longevity—an energy management legacy.
Loudoun County Public School’s journey to legacy began with a partnership. In 1993, the County was approached by representatives of Energy Education, Inc. (now Cenergistic), a consulting and service provider of energy reduction solutions. The business proposition was unique for its time—there were virtually no upfront costs, and the Cenergistic program would pay for itself with utility expense reductions. The school district would share utility savings with Cenergistic for four years. After the contract period was over, the district could continue energy-saving habits cultivated during the implementation, and all future savings would belong exclusively to the district and its stakeholders.
There was another perk to the Cenergistic proposal—most of the emphasis of the program was on behavior change and not on expensive retrofits and hardware. LCPS decided to accept the Cenergistic proposal.
Creating a Baseline
Results were impressive from the start. Records indicate that the LCPS fiscal year energy spend from the baseline period (July 1993 to June 1994) was $2,348,290. At the close of fiscal year 1995 (the first full year with the Cenergistic program in place), the school district had demonstrated utility cost avoidance of $891,210—and cost savings of 28.9 percent!
LCPS had built a new Hillsboro elementary school in 1967. The photo image shows both the old school house (lower left) and the new school (circular). A physical inventory of all the meters for which LCPS was paying revealed the problem meter. LCPS quietly turned the meter payments over to the Hillsboro community association, which owns/operates the old school house.
A similar situation involved a municipality-owned water tower for which LCPS was paying the electric bills.
The water tower and associated water treatment facility (pictured above) was built by LCPS as part of the requirements to be issued a construction permit for Harmony Middle School (co-located on the site, but not pictured). Although it was always the intent of the project to turn the water tower over to the town of Hamilton (which occurred in 2007), the transfer of the electric utility account did not take place. As a result, for many months LCPS was not only paying for the water, but also for the electricity costs of supplying it. Once again, a meter audit revealed the error.
Additional utility savings were discovered through an EnergyCAP benchmarking report. Broad Run High School was found to have unusually high water usage when compared to its sister school in EnergyCAP. During a vacation period, when all water consuming systems were turned off, leaks were identified in a number of pipe joints that had failed.
This led to a major excavation project, since a domestic water line had bad joints all along an entire length of the pipe.
Every 20 feet (at the end of each pipe segment), a hole had to be dug and the pipe joint replaced.
This was a huge project that ended up generating significant savings on water and natural gas, as the leaking water was heated.
A key to the LPCS energy management success is consistent messaging—always linking energy management savings to the core educational mission. In relation to the LCPS Energy and Environment program, every school benefits from having money that is no longer needed to pay utility bills re-directed to classroom instructional programs. Schools have very strong student and community drivers that push for both fiscal and environmental stewardship; the LCPS Energy & Environment Team is a ready outlet for school based interests and efforts. Being recognized as a leader, not only in one’s community, but also in the United States is appealing strong driver. Being a leader allows students and communities to help teach the rest of the nation how environmental and fiscal stewardship, when taken seriously, will show real results.
The Power of People
People will always be the most important elements in a successful energy management program. LCPS program administrators like to point out that, “individuals who take up the mantle of being a champion for the program are always the most effective communication tools. Having a person who is capable of sharing data that shows where a school is today, where it has come from and how it compares to the ENERGY STAR program is very effective.” No matter what kind of technological advances may be in place, regardless of the multi-media nature of our modern world, and despite the obvious value that multiple means of communication present, having real advocates who care, are disciplined, and model best practices throughout the school system is the best way to get the message out.
In 1993, LCPS entered into an agreement with Energy Education, Inc. (now Cenergistic) to save money on energy and water utility bills. The arrangement has been a great success.
The LCPS people-based energy management program celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2014. Over the last 21 years, LCPS has saved over $64 million in expected utility costs—equivalent to hiring over 1,300 first year teachers or educating over 5,200 pupils for a year. In addition, 62 LCPS schools have earned the ENERGY STAR rating (representing over 70 percent of LCPS schools and 6.5 million square feet). LCPS (as a district) earned “ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year” in 2010 and 2011, and the Partner of the Year–Sustained Excellence Award for 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.
Loudoun County Public Schools provides a powerful educational model for long-term energy management success. People-based programs have been, and still are, very successful at reducing energy use and cost significantly. This is especially true when a large school district can tap into energy expertise and powerful energy tracking tools. LCPS has both, along with the experience and inertia of a two-decades-long story to propel the organization forward with additional savings in its bright future.
We are grateful to John Lord & Michael Barancewicz, Energy Education Specialists for the Loudoun County Public Schools, for their assistance in preparing this Case Study.