We're saving energy

Published: Wednesday, January 25, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 25, 2006 at 12:42 a.m.
Meter expenses would cancel out any rate savings we might stand to gain.
Several citizens have expressed concern about Alachua County Public Schools' contract with Gainesville Regional Utilities and our ongoing efforts to save money on energy. I'd like to provide the public with some important information.
The district signed the first multi-year contract with GRU in 1997. That same year, the School Board hired a performance-contract company to help us conserve energy.
Based on their recommendations, the district installed new energy-saving equipment. Within eight years, we had saved enough money - about $479,000 a year - to pay for those improvements, which continue to save the district a significant amount on energy costs.
In 2001, the district hired another company to conduct an energy audit. This company was also paid out of savings that were generated. The district netted a one-time savings of about $60,000.
Just five years into the district's 10-year contract, GRU approached the district with a new contract that provided a bigger Business Partner discount. Since 2002, the discount has saved the district more than $150,000 annually. The current contract runs through 2012.
Many people don't realize that GRU owns and maintains much of the utility infrastructure for the schools it serves. As we build additions to our schools, it's sometimes cheaper for us to install additional meters than to tie into a central meter. Having more meters also means GRU is responsible for more of the infrastructure. If something goes wrong, GRU has to fix it.
A School Board member wants GRU to charge individual schools the lower rate it charges customers who use more power. Currently only Gainesville High School meets the required threshold and is receiving the lower rate. For other schools to be eligible for that rate, the district would have to consolidate their meters, which would be very expensive.
We'd also have to take on the cost of maintaining more utility infrastructure. These expenses would outweigh any savings we might achieve if a school met the higher energy-usage threshold.
We are, however, continuously implementing other strategies that will save money on energy. We've budgeted funds this year to develop an incentive program for conservation. As we upgrade our facilities, we install more energy-efficient equipment and fixtures. We also have a central monitoring system that allows us to control and regulate electrical consumption at many of our schools.
We take very seriously our role as responsible stewards of public dollars, and we will continue to engage in dialogue with GRU about ways to conserve energy and save on costs.
Dan Boyd is superintendent of Alachua County Public Schools.

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