Schools hire energy manager, part of statewide push to cut costs
(July 7, 2010) – Growing from a pilot in a few buildings in 2007, Kentucky’s push to make its public schools more energy efficient – and return resulting savings to classroom instruction – now will impact more than 1,000 schools starting this month. And the Fulton Independent, Fulton County, and Carlisle County school systems are some of the districts leading the way in the cost-cutting initiative.
Carlisle County Superintendent Keith Shoulders announced that Jim Crouse has accepted the position as district energy manager. Crouse will work in the three school districts collaborating in a regional partnership. “Jim will develop an energy plan utilizing resources from KEEPS and KSBA to assist districts in effectively utilizing energy resources” stated Fulton County Superintendent Dennis Bledsoe.
“At a time when budgets are tight for schools and households alike, I’m very excited that our school board has chosen to join this effort to reduce utility expenses,” said Fulton Independent Superintendent Dianne Owen “Two of the pilot districts – Bullitt County and Kenton County – have recorded hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings. Even a portion of such savings would be wonderful.”
Statewide, 35 energy managers have been hired to create and implement energy efficiency practices in 130 districts statewide. The jobs are funded in part through the School Energy Managers Project (SEMP), a partnership of the Kentucky School Boards Association and the Kentucky Department of Energy Development and Independence.
Energy managers are employed by a lead agency but work in all partnering districts. The 29 lead agencies (28 districts and the Green River Regional Education Cooperative in Bowling Green) share $2.5 million in federal stimulus grant funds over the next two years. The grant covers up to 77 percent of salary and benefits in the first year and approximately 50 percent in the second year. All 130 districts share the remaining costs, based on the number of schools per district.
Ron Willhite, SEMP director for the school boards association, said the training is heavily designed to educate the energy managers on resources they may call upon in their work.
“Expertise in facility energy practices exists from the National Energy Education Development Program, the Green and Healthy Schools initiative and the Kentucky Energy Efficiency Program for Schools at the University of Louisville,” Willhite said. “These programs, plus the districts in the pilots, have people with the skills to help the new energy managers hit the ground running.
“We want the impact of this program to go beyond school walls,” he said. “For example, schools in Kenton, Muhlenberg and Nelson counties and the educational co-op have energy curriculum coordinators. We want students and staff to take energy lessons home and help their families to make wise energy choices. We believe these cost savings can be realized all across the state.”