Thinking green may save the planet, but it also saves money. And thanks to an innovative energy conservation program, officials at Valencia College have saved more than $1.3 million in energy bills in less than two years.
Starting in May 2011, Valencia has partnered with Cenergistic, a conservation company that uses data to help companies track and reduce their consumption of electricity, natural gas, fuel oil and water.
“Passing the $1 million mark is a significant milestone,” said Dr. William S. Spears, chairman and founder of Cenergistic. “Valencia College has achieved this level of success by consistently implementing the behavioral approach to energy conservation and maintaining productive efforts at all levels of the organization. The leadership, along with other administration and staff members, is to be commended for clearly fulfilling their commitment to being good stewards of their finances and the environment in the Orlando area.”
Patti Riva, Valencia’s operations manager for energy education, has led the effort to initiate changes among Valencia faculty and staff to reduce energy consumption – and has worked closely with a Cenergistic team to monitor the college’s energy use.
One of her strategies for reducing energy use has been to encourage campus departments to change the location of classes, so that on weekends and evenings, some sections of buildings are not in use – and the air-conditioning can be turned off.
“I call it strategic scheduling,” says Riva, who started her job in July 2011. “Even if you’re just moving a classroom from the second floor to the first floor, if that means there are no classes being held on the second floor, we can shut down the air-conditioning earlier.”
In energy conservation, she says this is the low-hanging fruit – being able to match the HVAC schedule to the college’s class schedule.
Riva has also encouraged employees to turn off lights, computers and even coffeemakers on nights and weekends. “I was so pleased over spring break to go around see that people are really shutting down their computers – the computers are not in ‘sleep mode’ – but they’re powered down. And that people will take the time to go around and turn monitors off.”
“It’s the little things, like closing the blinds, turning off the lights, that make a difference,” says Riva. “Even if that light has a sensor that will turn it off after 10 minutes – think of how many buildings have those sensors, not just in your campus, but college wide. That extra 10 minutes could be multiplied by 600 classrooms.”
Although Valencia staffers have already changed some of their habits, Riva believes that the college can save even more money – through changes in employees’ behavior.
“I think we’ve just hit the tip of the iceberg,” says Riva. “There’s a lot more that can be done.”