System starts to see energy savings in the schools

Friday, February 14, 2014

By Karen Hall


School board members heard the first report on how the Cenergistics energy-saving program is working in the schools when they met this week.

Roy "Bam" Haislip, the energy specialist hired by the system, presented the report.

"This is an overview," he said. "We are five months in, and the initial review will be in March or April."

Comparing the months of July to November 2012, without Cenergistics, and the same months of 2013, with Cenergistics, the savings looks to have been almost $20,000.

"November didn't look too hot," Haislip said, showing board members a chart. "December starts to change -- now we're getting in the groove.

"I'm in a meeting nearly every day," he continued. "We're heading in the right direction; it's just going to take everybody doing their part."

"What about areas where it's going in the opposite direction?" asked board member Ken Lilly.

"We can pinpoint where the difficulty is, and we're in the process of fixing it," Haislip assured him.

Director of Schools Jackie Abernathy brought Cenergistics to school board members' attention last June, and after due consideration they approved a four-year contract.

The initial presentation was made to the maintenance committee, which was so impressed it brought the proposal to the full board.

"It seemed like a win-win situation," said Harvey Jones Jr. at the time

"It seemed like a win-win to me, too," agreed Abernathy. "Systems (who are using it) have seen tremendous savings."

"It's self-funded and guaranteed," added Lilly.

"The Siemens program (for energy savings) started two years ago," explained Donnie Moses. "It's already fully implemented and we're repaying it based on savings. This program starts a new baseline. This is efficient use of what's already in place."

"We have to hire a facilitator, an energy specialist, who basically audits after-hours usage," said Lilly. "It's during the off hours where the biggest waste happens. They (Cenergistics) train them. It sounds too good to be true, but they guarantee it."

At the June meeting, board members voted to suspend the rules to allow Truman Atkins of Cenergistics to explain more about his company and its program.

"There's no aspect of energy management and conservation that we don't know how to deal with," Atkins said, citing over 20 years of experience, working with more than 1,000 school districts in 48 states.

"We average better than 26 percent energy savings across the country," he said. "We guarantee the savings will cover all costs."

Barbara Kennedy asked what would happen if teachers failed to comply with directions to shut down equipment and turn off lights at the end of each day.

"I don't think you're going to have any problem with this when they realize the savings can go toward instruction or salaries," said Abernathy. "It's (about) doing the little things and working together."

Abernathy gave board members one piece of bad news at their meeting this week: the district failed to qualify for the small schools equity money because our teacher salaries are too high.

Her administrative assistant Rhonda Poole supplied a copy of a Tennessee salary equity chart showing the weighted average salary in the state ranges from $39,723 in Clay County schools to $56,323 in Memphis City schools. Marshall County comes in at $44,218, less than $500 above the cut-off point.