Universities looking to save money should start with energy efficiency measures. Knowing how to capture energy savings now has the single most dramatic impact on the excessive utility bills of college campuses years into the future.

Campus buildings are typically diverse and have varying needs for thermal comfort, energy efficiency and space use. While facility staff need to maintain comfortable and efficient environments, these competing needs result in buildings that don’t operate at their maximum potential.

Cash strapped universities can’t afford to waste money on inefficient buildings, and budgetary constraints of an energy retrofit can simultaneously appear prohibitive.

Energy Savings Pay

Fortunately, for universities in the Puget Sound area, taking on a campus energy efficiency problem is not only simple, but it pays.

Seattle City Light and Puget Sound Energy have incentive programs to help campus facility managers improve buildings’ energy performance through commissioning and verification.

Seattle City Light offers a financial incentive program for organizations and institutions that install energy efficient equipment and lighting. Incentive amounts, based on energy savings, can range as high as 70% of the installation cost.

Puget Sound Energy offers its Comprehensive Building Tune-Up (CBTU) program that incentivizes low or no cost operational improvements or energy efficiency upgrades through commissioning. Incentive amounts are up to 100% of commissioning agent costs as well as costs of operational improvements and energy upgrades.

The program has already supported hundreds of energy-efficiency retrofits with their custom grant program. Additionally, 28 school districts have qualified for the State of Washington’s matching grants. Additional grant funding is available for CapEx changes implemented, based on improved building performance.

SPU Takes Advantage

Seattle Pacific University (SPU) is participating in both Puget Sound Energy’s Comprehensive Building Tune-Up program and Seattle City Light’s incentive program. Both programs align with the university’s pursuit of its climate action plan with a long-term goal to become climate neutral by 2036.

Through a carbon footprint analysis, SPU found that its most significant source of direct greenhouse gas emissions was through natural gas use in its facilities. So the university set a short-term goal to reduce natural gas use by 20%.

To get insights into its buildings, Paladino’s commissioning team conducted energy analysis and retro-commissioning for 25 campus buildings. The team identified which buildings were performing well and which needed to boost performance. Through data gathering, monitoring and interpreting, several energy saving opportunities, including detection of HVAC inefficiencies, issues with the duct heater, and loop pumps were identified.

An inefficient HVAC system was detected at SPU’s Alexander Hall, a historic campus building.

By detecting these issues, energy savings exceeded typical commissioning costs by a factor of five. The capital improvement recommendations and maintenance items identified will help SPU achieve its 20% natural gas reduction target.

While the process is ongoing, SPU has saved energy and lowered utility bills without significant investment, and will eventually minimize operational staff time. The added incentives provided by Seattle City Light and Puget Sound Energy make the effort a win-win-win.

Feeling Incentivized?

As part of a preferred provider team for the Puget Sound Energy and Seattle City Light incentive programs, let us know if you have any questions as to how you can lower your campus utility bills without a heavy, upfront investment.



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