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Increasing energy costs make saving a challenge

Posted: July 6, 2014 - 9:26pm

With rising energy costs, the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District continues to try to reduce energy consumption to save money.

While utilities make up slightly more than 4 percent of KPBSD’s fiscal year 2015 budget, the district and the borough have implemented programs and projects to save money and energy throughout the years.

In fiscal year 2008, the district started an energy conservation program. The money saved through the program is reallocated for educational purposes. Through the program each school is given back 25 percent of the cost avoidance based on energy consumption or usage by site.

Since the program began, schools have earned $489,678 through the incentive, Dave Tressler, director of planning and operations said.

While energy consumption has decreased, energy costs have increased, which can make reducing costs year-to-year challenging, Tressler said.

In FY08, the district spent about $2.6 million on electricity. In FY13 that expense jumped to $3.1 million. Natural gas costs increased by $187,149 from FY08 to FY13. Fuel for heating decreased by $43,545 between FY08 and FY13.

“I’m just going to use a hypothetical (a school) may have saved $50,000 the first year, well then they have to save on top of that again and … with the cost of energy and everything going up, that’s very difficult, but schools are still doing that,” Tressler said.

The incentive program is behavioral-based, Tressler said. Before the program launched, district employees were educated about energy conservation and reminders to turn off lights were stuck to switches.

Tressler said the district is looking into revamping the program to encourage interest in energy conservation in the schools.

“The goals are obviously to save much needed money for the budget because obviously the money that is saved there can go into the classrooms for education,” Tressler said.

The borough is working on ongoing projects to reduce utility costs in the schools. Tressler said the borough has been doing area-wide electrical upgrades since the late 1990s.

“(The borough tries) to keep up with the latest technology to save the district money as far as utility costs go,” Tressler said.

The ongoing roofing projects for buildings across the district will bring older roofs with small R-Values or insulation levels to 38. This summer Skyview High School and Tustumena Elementary School are getting total reroofs and Aurora Borealis Charter School is getting a partial reroof.

Tressler said the district in the past about seven years has done window replacements at Soldotna Elementary School and Ninilchik School.

In the KPBSD six-year plan for FY15-FY21, window replacement projects are identified for Chapman, Paul Banks, Sterling and Tustumena Elementary Schools. The projects for Chapman and Tustumena also include siding replacements. All the projects are estimated to cost between $500,000 and $550,000.

Tressler said the higher energy efficient windows make a considerable difference.

“We would really, really like to fund, somehow fund those windows from the old schools that were built in the late 50s and 60s and 70s,” Tressler said. “That’s huge for us. It’s on our six-year plan as a high priority.”

Kaylee Osowski can be reached at kaylee.osowski@peninsulaclarion.com.

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