Original Date: 11/17/1997
Revision Date: 01/18/2007
Best Practice : Utility Management
Between 1992 and 1997, Elizabethtown College reduced Plant Operations’ budget from $4.2 million to $3.2 million, and completed an expansion project to increase floor space by 13% (125,000 square feet) all without reducing its operational staff. This feat was accomplished in many ways including energy efficiency improvement projects and a comprehensive quality program. The main focus was utility costs which represented approximately one-third of Plant Operations’ budget.
The utility management team uses an Energy Management System (EMS) to monitor electricity use throughout the campus. The system regulates electricity consumption by centrally controlling the operational equipment through individual meters on the buildings. Where appropriate, variable speed drives are installed on the electric motor driven systems. Since electricity demand (total kilowatt required at any moment) is recorded hourly, the team can determine and adjust for high loads of total energy use in any building. In addition, the team avoids high electricity demand charges by keeping peak demand low via load management (peak shaving). Demand charges are based on the 15-minute period when the College’s power usage is at its highest during a month.
To track the College’s natural gas consumption, the utility management team conducts biweekly meter readings. The team then calculates the gas consumption and cost for each building, and records the data in a spreadsheet. Water and sewer usage are also monitored and recorded on a biweekly basis. The monitoring system is so accurate that the team can identify a leaking toilet just by reviewing a meter’s data. The team’s energy efficiency improvement projects included placing separate water meters on the swimming pool and air-conditioning cooling towers which eliminated sewer charges billed against these systems; maintaining flow rates in showers at 1.75 to 2.25 gallons per minute; and installing low volume per flush units whenever a toilet was replaced. Between 1991 and 1996, Plant Operations realized $9,500 per year in cost savings by reducing water usage in the dining hall, gymnasium, and residence halls. Plant Operations also promotes water conservation awareness in the campus community through competitions. In 1996, the residence hall students who saved the highest percentage of water received a pizza party.
Through several small-scale energy projects, Plant Operations successfully demonstrated its credibility and cost reduction efforts. During a two-year period, Plant Operations received three matching grants (totaling $110,000) under the Department of Energy’s Institutional Conservation program. The grants helped finance the energy efficiency improvement costs ($230,000) for converting the hot water heating systems from electricity to gas in two buildings; installing a pool dehumidifier; retrofitting exit lights; and changing the heating, ventilating, and air- conditioning system’s piping between two buildings. Energy and maintenance cost savings totaled $95,500 per year from these projects. The following year, Plant Operations received additional grants through the program to conduct energy audits in all remaining buildings. These audits revealed a potential cost savings of $210,000 per year. Plant Operations’ successful efforts persuaded the College’s administration to implement the efficiency improvements and finance them through an energy-saving Performance Contract.
The utility management team continues to explore new methods for increasing energy efficiency. Through daily meetings, the team discusses energy issues and ideas as part of the continuous improvement process. Team management and employee empowerment are the keys to the success of Elizabethtown College’s resource efficiency programs.
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